2 years ago
Admissions Advice

Why is the transition from high school to college so difficult?

I would like to know why it's so difficult to adapt when going from high school to college?


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Accepted Answer
2 years ago[edited]

For most public school students, transitioning to college is difficult because everything is different in college. Here is my list of 10 major differences between HS and College.

1. You leave the comfort of your private bedroom sanctuary in your parents house and live either in a micro-room or a small bedroom with a room-mate. So goodbye comfortable full or queen sized bed and having space to lay out your clothes and room to study. You are now on a narrow twin, have 1/2 the closet and storage and a tiny desk.

2. Instead of having your own bathroom or sharing the bathroom down the hall with your sibling, you now share a bathroom with up to 20 to 30 people. You bring your shower-caddy with you and try to do your business as quick as possible and those long steamy showers listening to tunes is over. If you are a girl or a boy that uses makeup, most people apply their face in their dorm room.

3. Say goodbye to home cooked meals and having direct access to your favorite grab and go pantry stock. This is especially difficult if you are Asian or a Brown person of color who eats ethnic food. Eating your three square meals in a dining hall will feel like prison food for a while. When the kitchen cooks mandate is to feed hundreds and thousands, all the food is going to be under-seasoned and spiced. If you were used to Grandmas' Pho Soup your your homemade Chinese dumplings or Aunties Butter chicken, it's not going to happen in the dining hall.

4. Gone are the rows of high school small chairs with built-in tiny desks. Many of your core classes with more than 50+ people are going to be taught by TAs who don't know your name in large theater style auditoriums. And many of your electives that have small classes will be taught in a Socratic style around a big table where much of the discussion is student led. You might find yourself in a tutorial with just one other student and a professor watching and taking notes.

5. If you want 1 on 1 time with your TA or Professor, you will have to sign up for office hours. If you fall behind, you will have to ask for help. Most colleges these days have centers dedicated to helping you write papers or helping you catch up with math.

6. At home in HS, many students still have their teachers and parents and peers helping them with time management because every hour is structured. You have 6 to 8 class periods every day. You know that you have to move to the next class when the bell rings. Your mom or day or school bus takes you back and forth to school from home. You go to your ECs after school or do sports. You have a built in support system that disappears in college. At college, you have to pick and choose your courses/schedules and be 100% responsible to get up, eat, walk to class and figure out what you have to do each an every day. For someone organized, this is not a big deal. But since colleges are so flexible, you can literally miss 1/2 your classes for some courses if you are diligent enough to do the coursework on your own and show up to take the tests. Some people struggle with balancing the freedom and independence with the responsibility of excelling at school.

7. Making new friends is sometimes extremely challenging for some people. They have been with the same group of people from k-12. So now they have to be vulnerable and get along with complete strangers in a different city. With the ongoing pandemic, this can be very isolating if you are worried about catching COVID-19 and keep your mask on 90% of the time in public. A weaker human might get depressed easily over the lack of social contact.

8. At home, you can lock your door and have private time, or go watch TV in the living room, hang out in the kitchen, eat at the dining table, maybe workout in the garage/basement. It's all very familiar. At college every space will be a new space. So it's important to identify which spaces you need to thrive in and which ones you want to access for your mental health and sanity. You have in some cases 1000 acres of campus to explore and make your own. You might find that going to the local coffee shop in the AM is what you need to start your day versus hitting the dinning hall. You have to figure out when to be a student, when to be a private citizen.

9. In your hometown, you spend your entire life figuring out where you stand even if you are not keeping track. So if you are known as the geeky, honors, student athlete, basic girl, when you go to college, you are no longer the sum of your hometown existence. It might be hard or challenging to find your people. If you were the valedictorian that spoke at graduation, and you are at an Ivy college, well now there are 500 valedictorians in your freshman class, you might find they are all more brilliant and talented than you are. It's a gut punch to feel average or below average amongst the cream of the crop. You might say to yourself, why bother competing with these geniuses? Well that's the point. You want to test your potential and see where it the journey leads to.

10. In HS, you knew who was poor, average or rich and what the implications meant. If you go to a top US college, you will find 10X as much diversity and class difference than you were are aware and that might freak you out. There will be people on campus that have to use the on campus food bank because they don't have enough money to feed themselves during school breaks or holidays when the dining hall is closed. And there might be people who eat out 10-15 times a week, spending $100 for dinner because they can. So on your dorm floor there will be some brown person eating a 69 cent package of INDOME instant noodles for dinner. And someone getting a $100 Wagyu sando bento box and tipping the UberEats delivery person $20. Clothing wise, you might be going to class in your sweats and hoodie and Converse All-stars. And the person sitting next to you might be peeling out of his $2000 Northface/Gucci collab puffer and putting up his $2000 Travis Scott Jordan's on the the chair back while looking at his $12,000 Rolex Submariner he got for graduation to see what time it is. And during Xmas break, many out of state or Int'l poor students have to fend for themselves while the rich kids are surfing in Costa Rica or on a ski trip to Aspen or Switzerland. This will be a rudest awaking for some to accept existing around the "haves" and "have nots". Class-rank means something different in college than having the highest GPAs/Test Scores. Class-rank means you will get invited to join a private secret society /Frat like Saint Anthony Hall or Skull & Bones at Yale, the A.D. Delphic, Fly, Owl, Fox, Porcellian, Phoenix Clubs at Harvard. And if you didn't attend an elite Private boarding school in HS, that might exclude you from certain social invitations as well.

So even though I stopped at 10 things, you can see there is a lot to unpack and understand. I hope this was helpful to you.

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