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From High School To College: My Transition

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Posted: Friday, October 4, 2019 4:09 pm

People always talk about college being the best four years of your life. In many cases that’s true. There are no parents, parties every weekend, and the potential for new friendships and romantic-relationships to form. It’s an exciting time full of opportunity and new experiences. People also talk about being nervous about college, but typically the excitement overcomes the anxiety. This wasn’t the case for me.

I’ve dealt with clinical anxiety since the second grade. I’ve been to numerous therapists. I’ve been medicated since the fifth grade. Looking at me you wouldn’t know any of this. I’ve been the lead in multiple plays/musicals. I sing on stage in front of hundreds of people. I take the lead in group projects, participate actively in class discussions, and love debates (and typically win them). Yet I have debilitating anxiety. The reason people don’t assume it when looking at me is because I know how to manage it. I’ve dealt with it for so long that I know how to use various coping mechanisms I’ve adopted over the years.

My high school senior year I couldn’t wait to graduate. All I wanted to do is get out of high school and go to college. I had seven offers of admission from the seven schools I applied to. I was on top of the world; my future was bright and it was right in front of me. I eventually chose to attend California Polytechnic University in San Luis Obispo as a journalism major. I was so excited to leave and start the next chapter of my life. Eventually, graduation came and went and the summer before college had begun. Everything I thought my summer was going to be turned upside down.

I had a huge flair-up in my anxiety around the third week of summer. I couldn’t leave my house. I spent at least a week on the couch watching TV, having multiple panic attacks a day. Eventually I went to my psychiatrist and got my medications adjusted, and that helped a little bit, but I was still very far from where I was only a few weeks ago. This changed my entire attitude about college, I was once so excited, but now all I could feel was fear. I had had such a mastery over my anxiety, and now it was like I was learning to handle it all over again. I didn’t know if I would be able to do it by myself, six hours away from my family and friends.

I read countless articles about handling the transition from high school to college. There were tons of people saying that they were nervous, but they also said they were more excited than nervous. I thought something was wrong with me. Why wasn’t I more excited? Was this a sign that I shouldn’t go? Should I have chosen a school closer to home? Honestly, I was dreading leaving. I cried nearly every day just thinking of how I would have to leave all of the people that supported me, and all of the things that I was familiar with.

Fast forward to now, and I’m writing this from my dorm room. Three of my new friends are sitting around me and we’re listening to music and doing homework (sort of). I can honestly say that it’s been much better here than I expected it to be. I like all of my classes, and I’ve made friends a lot more quickly than I thought I would. The location is amazing, and I’ve enjoyed exploring all of the new shops and restaurants that San Luis Obispo has to offer. I definitely miss my family, friends, and especially my dog, but I’m adjusting.

If you’re a high school senior who’s nervous about starting college next year - not “a little nervous but more so excited,” but actually extremely nervous - it’s going to be okay. I’m not saying it will be easy, but it will be okay. You will make friends, and each day you will feel just a little bit more familiar with your surroundings.

Reach out to the resources your campus offers (the counseling center has been a huge help to me), they’re there to help you, and you’d be surprised to know how many kids are in the same situation as you. Mental health isn’t something to be ashamed of, it’s something that many people have to deal with every day. It doesn’t make you weird, or weak, if anything it makes you strong. Just take everything day-by-day, make college the best four years of your life.

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