Are seniors ready to face the realities of college

Graphic by: Tyler Vander Woude

Graphic by: Tyler Vander Woude

Tyler Vander Woude, Staff Writer

The school bell rings, a fresh gust of spring wind hits your face, the smell of rain tickles your nose… senior year is over. The sky feels like it’s on the border of a storm, and you can’t tell if the thunderheads are real or a figment of your imagination. Suddenly, as you prepare for life after high school, feelings of worry, stress, excitement, and fear start hitting you like raindrops.

Every year, seniors graduate from high school and enter the real world, but are they ready? Data from YouthTruth -a survey of about 55,000 students, between September 2015 and December 2016- indicates no, at least for half of  high school seniors. However, it’s a bit more complicated. In the same YouthTruth survey, about half of graduating seniors planning for higher education reported feeling that they are not prepared for college, and the other half, although prepared, will still face what the realities of college have in store for them.

Recent Lincoln Southeast High School (LSE) graduates and current University of Nebraska-Lincoln students, Chloe Heller and Reis Jensen, recently started their freshman year of college and have found that some aspects are a bit different than they imagined.

“The one big difference is motivation,” Jensen said. “I feel like last year the senioritis really hit and I procrastinated more than I should have. But now, in college, the change of scenery and lifestyle, as well as the higher expectations have motivated me to stay on top of my school work.”

Studying for classes has always been an activity expected of students, but during the last year of high school, many seniors feel their motivation begins to run dry. Although seniors know that they will have to study more in college, the habit of procrastination and lack of motivation sets the bar low for what they expect from themselves.

Luckily though, according to Jensen, “the change of scenery and lifestyle as well as the higher expectations have motivated me to stay on top of my school work. Plus now you’re paying for school so you might as well put in a little more effort.”

But, where else do the realities of college diverge from the preconceived expectations held by so many? Whether it’s the college party-life, starting new social circles, forming new studying habits, how COVID-19 will come into play,  or time management expectations,  one aspect or another of college will often be a bit different than high school seniors expect.

“I definitely had the expectation that it would be easy to find an ‘awesome college friend group’ because you look at social media and it seems like as soon as people graduate from high school they are constantly making friends,” Heller said. “I’ve definitely found some great people that I hang out with regularly now, but the first month my expectations definitely differed from reality.”

Making new friends while maintaining high school relationships can be challenging when heading to college. Everyone seems to have the expectations that they will carry on all their old friendships and that making new friends will be simple. However, many college freshmen will find that–in the beginning–finding the right friend groups will be a challenge, and many friendships from high school will fade.

“[Most freshmen] only keep their tight inner-circle group of high school friends, which is 100 percent okay,” Jensen said.

Currently, with the COVID-19 pandemic, there have been several changes to the ‘normal’ college lifestyle.

“Covid has unfortunately taken a huge toll on my college experience,” Jensen said. “I think college is a really social four years of our lives so it’s tough that we are so limited in that regard.”

With several experiences put on hold because of the pandemic, the gap in expectations vs. the realities of college is even greater. Heller thinks that many freshmen feel the same as her. “There are countless things that I’m missing out on, that I don’t even know I’m missing.”

Although COVID-19 caused some changes to college life this year,  Heller and Jensen have managed to find the good in hard times.

“There are still so many awesome things,” Heller said.

Between the two of them some of the awesome things were: living somewhere new, meeting new people all the time, taking responsibility for their own social lives, studying in a field they are excited for, and having fun just being in college.

“I’ve made the most of it and have still been able to meet a lot of great people especially through Greek life,” Jensen said.

High school seniors Makenna Stanton and Barrett France are looking forward to college next year, and they were both excited to think about the times that lay ahead of them.

“Honestly, if you were to ask me a year ago, I would have said there’s no way, but now I have plenty of friends that do [zoom classes], and they honestly don’t mind it,” Stanton said.

With the extra year of practice and shared experiences from friends, this year’s college freshmen and previous LSE graduates, high school seniors feel the transition to college and the possibility of  zoom classes won’t be too much of a challenge.

“I feel like it’d be an easier transition from this year just because we got used to it, but also I definitely wouldn’t like it because I want the full college experience,” France said.

As college nears closer and closer make sure to check out Jerrica Zuhlke’s article “Are students prepared for independence” (pg. 2) for tips on how to become more prepared for life after high school.

“I’m definitely nervous and stressed. More just about rooming, I don’t know who I’m staying with yet. And I don’t know what to major in yet. And I don’t know how I’m going to pay for it yet, but we’re going to figure it out.” – Barrett France (12)
Photo courtesy: Barrett France
“I’m really excited to meet a ton of new people.” – Makenna Stanton (12)
Photo courtesy: Makenna Stanton