College. The one word that holds so much power over my future, my destination after high school, my eligibility for jobs later on in life. Chilling, I know. Perhaps you’ve been there before or are there currently, but I’m just starting out. This has been an emotional and stressful process in which I’ve discovered myself, what I need, what I can do away with, what’s the most important to me.
College is something that I’ve thought about for a long time, though just recently in depth. My mother has always preached to me the importance of attending, as a college degree opens more job opportunities for you in life. I agree with her on this, as my profession of choice requires a degree, and I personally would like to achieve a PhD. However, I’ve noticed that the conversations with close family friends around me attending college have always been from her perspective and not mine.
Very rarely am I asked about my emotional state of leaving the nest and becoming independent, something that I didn’t notice I was struggling with until the end of last year. When conversing with family friends who’ve had relationships with me since birth, they take in my appearance and growth as an individual, but bypass me and go straight to her. “She’s so big now!” Then, college is mentioned and it’s always “you must be so proud,” or “she’s growing up so fast,”, not by choice might I add.
My mom has been my rock for my entire life. We’re attached at the hip in every sense of the expression. As a young child who was afraid to speak to strangers, I always had her there to speak for me, in varying tasks from ordering food at a restaurant to telling my pediatrician my symptoms of dehydration. Now that adulthood and independence is quickly approaching, the thought of doing things for myself is daunting and exhibits a visceral reaction of fear and anxiety. I’m losing my middle man. Who will make appointments for me? Who will call my bank for me when I need to report false charges? Who will pay at the register and talk to the cashier for me? I remember being a child loading groceries onto the conveyor belt when my mom stepped away to retrieve a forgotten item. Our groceries were almost done being scanned and she wasn’t back yet. I remember my sweaty palms, chapped lips, and empty pockets, wanting to let the next two people go in front of me, but our items were almost up.
Deciding where to continue my education has been a long process. Firstly, filling out that FASFA form was a pain in the bum. They asked questions that even my mom didn’t know the answer to. Secondly, why is there an application fee? You’re having me pay for my rejection or acceptance. And if they reject me, I don’t get a refund.
Third, at the time when I was applying to colleges, I didn’t have a clear idea of where I wanted to go. I was getting so many college emails and a plethora of college catalogues and brochures being sent to the house. At first I started off applying to schools who sent the application in the mail, half of them I had no idea about. Despite the fact that my mother and I had discussed college since elementary school, I’d never given much thought on where I wanted to go.
I changed my mind a few times over this entire college application process. I now know where I am going in the fall, having already accepted my admission, submitted my deposit, and applied for dorm housing. However, the decision about where to go in the fall wasn’t easy for me to make. I weighed my options, narrowing down my list to two good schools, in which I could see myself attending both. I took into consideration location to family, cost, and on campus activities, before ultimately deciding to stay in California at a school about an hour away from home.
In the end, I chose this school simply because I am not ready to leave the nest. I feel as though the location of the university is far enough for me to feel independent, yet close enough for me to come home if I need something or if I am feeling homesick.
I wish people looked at college through the perspective of people my age, the college freshman leaving behind high school and entering a new chapter in life. Most high school seniors have not physically been on a school campus since the first semester of their junior year, myself included. I think college will be an especially difficult transition period for me because in a way, it’s remembering how to socialize with people again. It’s learning how to carry out conversations, something that I’ve only seen on TV during this pandemic. It’s adjusting to the idea that although public health isn’t exactly great, most of us will be back to in person learning with different precautions that we have never seen before.
I know that I am not the only teen feeling this way. There’s a lot of us out there who are still figuring out what to do during these “unprecedented times” as the media and schools like to refer to it. In parting, parents be patient with your teens, and teens, be patient with your parents. I’m sure a lot of us are around each other a lot more than we are used to, but we’ll get through this together.
Aww! Poor dear. Leaving the nest is bound to be scary. Still, you bring up numerous issues of how our society fails to empower young adults as they face their own uncertain futures, especially for first-generation college students. The unknowns are numerous and daunting. I hope you will find wise guides, guardian angels and inner strength at every moment of your journey. You deserve that. After a while, you’ll be the person helping the little girls waiting for her mom to speak for her.