Make no mistake, I went to a great high school. I had every opportunity I could have asked for there. That, however, shouldn't stop us from appreciating the magic of college! After starting my freshman year, it became clear that there were drastic improvements in many areas. Some of them were things I had long hoped for, and others were small perks I never would've considered. I'm certainly not alone, as it seems most college students set foot on campus and never regret having continued their education. This is not supposed to be my chance to bash high school - college and high school are understandably (and intentionally) very different things. Rather, I wanted to point out some of the greatest things about being able to move on to this new stage of life. Here's eight ways that college totally one-ups high school.
Yeah, food trucks are awesome, as are all of the fast food places right across the street. However, don't let upperclassmen complain about dining halls to you. The food and accompanying facilities that colleges themselves provide are already miles beyond the classical school cafeterias of high school. This includes the quality of the food (I don't know about you, but my school has fresh options every day, some of my meals are even cooked fresh before my eyes), but also have great facilities. Dining halls can offer atmospheric social and study spaces for when you've finished up your meal. It's also hard to argue with the all-you-can-eat buffet style dining halls (leave your scale at home). These types of halls tend to offer much more variety than high school cafeterias would, and it's much easier to cater to whatever dietary restrictions/chosen eating habits you have.
2. School Spirit
It always seemed to me that school spirit in college is taken to a whole new level. Events, free t-shirts and school colors galore! Even the sprinkles on my sugar cookies at lunch are in my college's colors. People are simply crazy proud to be where they are. There's a great energy at college that I never remember from high school. The best thing about school spirit in college is that we have a really key reason to be proud: we CHOSE the school we attend, whereas our high schools were simply the places that were close to our homes. Not only do we represent our school, but the fact that we chose our school means that they represents us.
So. Many. Clubs. There is definitely some type of organization that appeals to your interests if you are only willing to seek it out. Finally, there are more options than just student council and the chess club. It also felt like most of the high school clubs I did at one point had to struggle to stay afloat. Clubs in college have solid leadership and a more active membership. With all of these clubs come great opportunities for leadership, service and networking. There might be an association for your major, a community performing ensemble or a cultural club that applies to you. Most colleges also have active student government groups with much more autonomy and influence than high school student governments. If your college doesn't have the organization you're looking for, start it yourself! It's much easier in college to find people equally passionate about specific topics. Also, don't forget to look beyond just the groups offered by your college. There are likely community service groups and non-profits that are seeking college-age volunteers. Any organization you connect with can help you build a strong friend group, reach out to the community and just downright have fun!
I'm just going to say it...not everyone is independent. Freedom can be a blessing or a curse, but I think mostly every college student can agree that it's really nice to have. And I'm not just talking about the classic freedom from overprotective parents. For me, freedom in college has a lot to do with being independent from your school. Even in high school, most students have to ask to use the bathroom and get a pass whenever they go somewhere different than normal. By the age of 18, it felt a little embarrassing to have your hand (figuratively) held that tightly. College provides the opportunity to go where you want and do what you want, while still providing safety and health services that are meant for our real benefit. Take advantage of your freedom, but remember to stay safe.
5. Instructors Are Chill
As a general statement, college instructors know that you have a life. I wasn't even mildly stressed out by my workload until I chose to put things off...oops. But, this was a major shift from high school. Maybe I just had some really intense teachers, but it often felt as though our workload for a single class was always in terms of that one class, not the five to seven that most student have. Could I finish their assignments in the one night they gave us? Yes, given that I *didn't* do any work for any other class. This is certainly not the feeling I've gotten in college. The reason for this? Well, instructors have lives too. I don't just mean their family and their hobbies, but they have an academic life outside of class as well. Professors at universities often do research. Graduate student instructors and TAs likely have their own classes to worry about. There's also the general sentiment that college is meant to be about more than just class. It's supposed to be about experiences, too, and that's something that college faculty are well aware of.
6. Libraries and Related Resources
Books: heck yeah. You'd better believe I spent three hours of my second day on campus at my university's main library. As a psychology major, it was a little tough finding books at my high school's library that were immediately relevant to my major. Unless you're an English major enjoying ample supplies of literary criticism, you probably had a similar experience trying to enrich your interests in high school. Luckily, universities are hot spots for academic resources (they're kind of known for that).
Larger schools may even have multiple libraries, each packed with more books than you could imagine. It's amazing how specific some materials can be. My university even has two entire racks dedicated to the psychology of incest (weird, right?) If the book you want isn't available or your library doesn't own it, your college is likely part of some kind of inter-library loan system, where you can request books from other colleges' libraries. I've used this service myself a number of times - on average, the service can get me a book from across the state in three days!
Pro tip: get acquainted with your library *before* you have to start a research project, particularly if that library has multiple floors and a slightly confusing configuration. Also, call numbers are your best friend. Academic libraries typically use the Library of Congress system of classification, which is far more complex than the Dewey Decimal System you may be used to from high school. When you need to find a resource in the library, check their online catalog beforehand and go prepared!7. Technology
Use of technology in college increases ten-fold from high school. Most assignments are submitted online, which saves time, hassle, and trees. Depending on the class, this might also apply to homework assignments, exams and notes. Online notes aren't just for the lazy - they're a valuable way to make class more engaging. While high school forces most students to try to split their attention between their notebook paper and their teacher, professors who post their notes online opt for a more focused class where the agenda can center around discussion, not scribbling. Another noticeable difference from high school is that instructors often seem more knowledgeable about the technology they use. This is exciting for students who want to use more technology in class. I personally find it extremely helpful in preventing misunderstandings between students and teachers when technology doesn't cooperate and jeopardizes your assignments. College professors have been much more aware of how technology can dysfunction.
It's important to remember that college kids are still KIDS. There's always going to be that group of wild party-ers and "C's get degrees" advocates who haven't quite seen the light. It was apparent to me, however, that something had changed upon entering college. People actually hold doors when they know there's someone behind them. Social cliques have nearly disappeared, and it's rare to find people putting others down. Best of all, people aren't afraid to put themselves out there, no matter who they are.
All things considered, college has a lot to offer for students who are simply ready to move on. It's hard to deny the number of additional opportunities we have, not to mention all those little pet peeves we had with high school that have magically disappeared. Enjoy these four long-awaited years of your life. You've made it this far, now don't look back!
Lead Image Credit: Flickr Creative Commons