Note to My College-Bound Self: This is Your Journey

College is your journey.

Flickr user Katy Warner

My transition to college was, in a word, rough. Like many others, I dealt with homesickness (despite home only being two hours away), the weight of new responsibilities, and the worry of fitting in.

My roommate and I were opposites.

When I wasn’t in class or on the marching band practice field, I was in my dorm room, reading books or watching movies. Once I got the scheduled rhythm down I felt like I was settling in. However, my roommate was extroverted while I was introverted. She would go out on weekends with friends, bring people back to hang out in our dorm room, be out and about all the time–which, of course, is perfectly fine. She was responsible, had good grades, and got all her work done on time.

My roommate was worried I wasn’t getting the “college experience.”

The problem came when she expressed the thought that I was “not getting the true college experience” since I “spent most of my time in the dorm room.” (The second part was not true, but I digress). That idea stuck with me for a long while. Was I being too shy? Should I go out more despite it being exhausting? Was I doing college the “right” way?

College is your journey.

Here’s the biggest piece of advice I wish I could tell my younger self: This is your journey, not anyone else’s. 

And by that I mean there’s no need to compare your experiences with another’s. There is no one singular “college experience” to have. There are no set-in-stone rules to follow. You don’t have to go to this or that event, you don’t have to make a zillion friends, you don’t have to participate in a sport or club in order for your college experience to be meaningful. But you can do those things if you want; it is all up to you. You will not be “missing out” on anything if you choose to take a different path.

Do you go to every school-sponsored event? Great! Your friend binges on Netflix after a full-day of classes? Great! Congratulations, because you are both doing college right: you’re doing it your own way.

My experience: marching band, a handful of very close friends, a lot of movies, tons of writing and literature classes, and video game-filled weekends. Her experience: a ton of friends, parties, being involved in student-run orgs, and studying abroad. Two very different journeys because we were two very different people. And that’s ok!

Robert Frost said it best: “Two roads diverged in a wood, and I– / I took the one less traveled by, / And that has made all the difference.”

Subscribe to Our Newsletter

Join thousands of students and parents learning about finding the right college, admissions secrets, scholarships, financial aid, and more.