(Editor's note: This is the latest in an occasional series, "If I Knew Then What I Know Now," in which authors provide advice to college students on the basis of their own experiences.)
Like many high school students, I had a head full of ideas about going to college. I thought I knew where I wanted to go to school and what life would be like once I got there.
But things turned out differently than I expected. Life is sometimes unpredictable, and you just have to "go with the flow" to get the most out of it.
During my junior year of high school, I wanted to attend the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. It’s a prominent and prestigious university, and it has an excellent journalism program. However, my best friend dragged me over to Meredith College’s table during College Day to look at what it had to offer. I had never imagined attending an all-women’s school before then, but since we were the only two students out of my class of five hundred to visit the representative from Meredith, I took pity on her and gave her my contact information.
By the next week, I was receiving information from Meredith College in the mail, including an invitation for a Leadership Conference. The conference was held in January, and, surprisingly enough for North Carolina, snow was falling when I arrived; the campus seemed so tranquil and enchanting covered in its white guise that I immediately fell in love with it. I soon grew to adore other aspects of the school as well. It was small-the student population is around 2,000. It had an excellent student-teacher ratio, with ten students for each teacher. And it had a great study abroad program with about 40 percent of students studying abroad at some point in their college career. I was greatly attracted to this program because I love travel and new experiences.
Although I had never intended to go to an all-women’s college, I found it appealing after hearing current students talk about it. They said that they felt a lot more confident speaking up in the classroom and saying their opinions. One concern that a girl in the group I was in had was the “drama” from having only girls at the school, but we were told that since most of the drama girls have revolves around boys, it’s not a problem at Meredith since there are no boys. But the part that really caught my attention was that since there aren’t any boys, most of the girls just go to class in just t-shirts or pajamas without wearing any make-up.
Most importantly, although Meredith College does not have a journalism program, I could create my own major in journalism. I was hooked. I interviewed for the Honors Program that February and was accepted a month later.
So what did I anticipate my college experience would be like? I thought I would make a ton of friends and have study groups together with coffee and milk-shake runs. I expected the campus to constantly be busy with various activities and things to do. I had heard from several college friends that most of the professors were liberal, so I was told to expect to have my conservative views challenged. I knew that the workload would be much heavier than at high school, but I had also heard about of all of the crazy parties and fun times everyone had. I was very excited for all of the freedoms that came with college life.
I also was worried about finding a good roommate—something I had to do before school began. I had heard horror stories from people who randomly selected their roommates. The paperwork for random selection asks only a few questions, so most people that are paired up have absolutely nothing in common except for their bedtime and taste in music.
But someone had created a Meredith College Facebook page for people to find roommates, so I decided to give it a try instead. After a few months of frustration, I finally found a girl I thought was compatible, and she agreed to room with me.
It turned out I was right on both counts: about using Facebook and about my future roommate. But once I stepped on campus, not everything turned out as I had hoped.
I was excited and slightly nervous when classes finally began. I signed up for a heavy workload, so I was in classes for the majority of every day. Just as expected, teachers tended to be liberal. Although most left their politics out of the classroom, my ethics professor did not. He was nice but extremely opinionated, and he often intimidated students in class. I dreaded going to his class every day because of his long rants assaulting conservative perspectives. He never let anyone argue against him, dismissing opposing arguments as “irrelevant.”
For example, we had a class discussion about abortion. My professor, being pro-choice, refused to let the pro-lifers say that life begins at conception and that abortion kills babies. He said there was no way to determine when life actually begins and would go on an angry tirade if anyone dared bring it up.
But there were also some pleasant surprises. I have never liked math all that much, but I was required to take calculus for Honors credit. My calculus professor made the class bearable. He was extremely helpful and always patiently explained problems until everyone understood. He was willing to rearrange our test or homework schedule if we were having trouble with a topic in order to spend more time helping us with it. When we had tests, he would hold study sessions, even on Sunday nights. Our final exam was on a Monday, so he held afternoon-long study sessions on the Friday and Sunday before the exam.
When I had to interview a professor for my freshman seminar class, my calculus professor was more than willing to help. He even took turns asking me questions in order to get to know me better. He knew all of his students by name, and he always greeted us when he saw us around campus. This professor far surpassed my expectations.
The social life turned out to be something of a letdown. I enjoy being at Meredith College, but I have to say that the weekends on campus are rather dull. There are no campus activities on the weekends, because everyone either goes home or hangs out with friends at North Carolina State University.
However, during weeknights, things are hopping, with many of the girls going to N.C. State frat parties. I went to a single frat party there at the beginning of the semester, and I can say that I will never go to another. The air was full of weed and alcohol, and the music was too loud for any conversation.
Instead, I turned to a small group of friends for my fun. I became best friends with my roommate. We not only have similar personalities, but we even look like each other. A week does not go by without my roommate and me being mistaken for twins. When everyone else was having their fun at N.C. State, we watched movies with popcorn or walked along Hillsborough Street. We made our own fun with college life.
Overall, I really enjoy my experiences at college. I have learned a lot and now know what to expect for the coming semester. I now know that I have to depend on myself, to seek out the best professors if I want to make the most of my educational experience or to have fun. And if the social life is less than I hoped for, then I can live with that for the sake of a rewarding academic experience.