I don’t think I’ve ever felt pressure as intense as what I’ve felt in college.
There’s a lot of rumors and ideas that float around college before you ever even get here. You hear plenty of people tell you it’s going to be the greatest years of your life, or it will go by so quickly, or that you’ll grow and change so much as a person that you’ll drift away from your closest high school friends.
For most, the freedom of college sounds like a dream. Especially after living under your parents’ rule for all of your life, the step into adulthood is a much anticipated journey.
But even being here for only a few months, I’ve learned of another reality to college life.
This reality contains more stress and imposter syndrome.
I am by no means saying that this is a feeling everyone experiences in college, but it can be common. High school teaches us to learn things once. You get graded, you’re expected to pass with near-perfect scores, and you move on as if that information will stay in your memory forever.
To some, college feels the same, but worse.
If I’m coming here to learn about what I want to do for the rest of my life, what happens if I don’t understand it right away, or at the pace of everyone else?
To be honest, I don’t know how to answer that question. It’s a struggle I’ve been facing a lot recently. High school conditions us to care about the grades we get, not the retention we have of the information. And that is not a skill easily unlearned.
My Music Theory professor told us something about this that really stuck with me. To paraphrase, she told us not to worry if our scores on the first quiz aren’t what we hoped for because she learned the same music technology information over and over through different degrees before she fully understood the concepts enough to practice them and teach them.
Not often do you hear a teacher admit and give credit to the fact that the class material isn’t meant to be easy, or even fully understood. It’s about introducing as much as possible, to pique the interest of students and expose them to worlds of music they might love or might not have considered.
College is a whirlwind of learning and unlearning. Freshman year might feel easy, thriving on meeting new people and learning interesting skills. For others, it’s a journey to find interests, balancing that among a social life, work, and rest.
It takes work. But it’s better to know you aren’t alone. College, even when it's rough, can have so many fun, unique opportunities. The best expectation to have coming into college, above all the others that anyone will tell you, is college doesn’t have to live up to every great expectation you have right away. It’s a step into a new world, a new way of living. It takes time.