College is hard.

Mount St. Joseph University quad with students walking around.

You leave high school thinking “That wasn’t so bad but thank goodness I’m out” and then you get excited for college and color-coded dorms with a roommate who will become your best friend (or independence in a single dorm away from family) and beautiful notes that are aesthetically edited. You hide the façade that is your anxiety from having a mound of homework that you don’t think you will ever be able to get done on time.

College is hard.

You are worried that you won’t find friends because people could already be in cliques leaving you on your own to study. You don’t get out much because your dad says you already have a lot on your plate and that you need to get used to college life before you join any clubs. You figure he is right because you have too much homework to do anyway. And when mid-semester rolls around, you realize that the workload you previously had was nothing compared to what you have to do now.

Classes, papers, clubs, friends, borderline grades, Facetiming family whenever you get a chance, relationship drama, drugs, parties, alcohol, masks, working out, pizza too often for dinner…that is all college seems to be about when you first experience it.

Then you meet the one professor that gives you peace about your work and realize that college isn’t so bad.

You meet someone who has not joined a clique and realize that they are pretty cool.

You attend a workshop about alcohol and misuse and learn that you don’t need to be a partier to “fit in.”

College isn’t so bad.

You come to terms with the fact that your roommate(s), who you don’t seem to get along with, aren’t required to be your bestie. They are only required to respect you and your space, and honestly, space away from everyone is exactly what you need right now. Or you live in a single dorm and realize how much you miss your family so you call them more often than you expected to because their voice is one of the only things keeping you sane in a life full of chaos. Or you commute and realize that distractions are so distracting, and even though you are grateful that you get to go home to your family every day, you might want to consider getting your own place soon.

You realize that there is no such thing as aesthetic notes, and that is ok. As long as you can read your own handwriting enough to study for and pass the exam, your notes are fine the way they are. The colored pens and highlighters that you bought over the summer will have to wait for when you have the time to make your notes pretty.

You talk to an upperclassman about all the work you have to do and are swallowing the emotion rising up in your throat when suddenly the upperclassmen starts telling you about how everyone is stressed and how to make the work easier. “Sociology should be one of the easier classes you’ll ever have to do. Here are some short cuts.” As you listen to those words, a huge weight lifts off your chest and for once you believe you can get it all done. Then you try out the shortcuts and discover some of your own.

College isn’t so bad.

You start to make goals for yourself and discover that as long as you stick to those goals and ignore the cute guy who just sent you a snap, you can do more in a day than you thought you could.

Suddenly you don’t have as much anxiety about what tomorrow will bring. Instead, you feel determined to work hard because you remember that the end goal is worth the current struggle.

When mid-semester rolls around, you see that your goals paid off and now you know you can get your work done on time.

College isn’t so bad.

You find out that the clubs you were interested in don’t have any meetings this semester anyway so you aren’t missing out on anything.

You learn that working out reduces stress and now that you have time for it and have made a good workout playlist, avoiding that freshman 15 isn’t as hard as you thought it would be.

College isn’t so bad.

Goals, good grades reflecting hard work, genuine friends, earplugs when neighbors are loud, getting out of your comfort zone, interesting classes, being ok with not being ok, getting support wherever you go, discovering who you are away from friends and family…that is only snippet of the amazing things that college life has to offer.

Though it may not always feel like it, college is a time to thrive.