Sometimes high school can feel like an endless toil, devoid of any excitement, fun, or sometimes even learning. When I think back on high school, I remember struggling so hard just to make it through the week, constantly counting down the days until the next break because I needed any respite from school I could get. As a current college student, I can happily say that college is, in nearly every way, an exponential improvement from high school. While it’s still tough, and while coming to college won’t solve all your problems, there are certain objective ways in which your life gets better in college. I’m reporting four of those ways here, as some kind of inspiration/motivation for any current high school student who’s worried that this phase of their life will never end (spoiler alert: it will).
1. Your Schedule Is a Lot More Open
In high school, it felt my every weekday was always booked. I woke up at 7:15 every morning, which was later than average and resulted in me being late a lot (oops). After school ended at 3:15, I usually had an extracurricular until around 5:30, then a half hour commute home. There, I still had homework and chores to attend to, not to mention, like, eating and showering and stuff. I couldn’t get out of any of these activities unless I was sick or on the brink of a mental breakdown; as such, I had to manage each moment of time efficiently, and I often wound up sleep deprived.
My experience reflects how many high schoolers live, and yet, looking at that schedule now, I have absolutely no idea how I did that every day. That looks insane. If you’re reading this a current high school student, give yourself a pat on the back just for going to school every day. College is so much different and (in my opinion) incredibly easier.
In college, class typically only takes up several hours of your day. Some days may be busier than others, but it would be extremely rare to be in class nonstop from 8 am to 3 pm like in high school. Your schedule isn’t dominated by things that other people insist that you do. I personally feel so much less burdened by obligation than I did in high school: for the first time since I was 14, I am actually getting enough sleep consistently.
Obviously, there are still a lot of busy people in college. Many students choose to dedicate a large chunk of time to studying, their extracurriculars, or other personal endeavors. But the keyword here is choice. You are in charge of your schedule; you are the one who calls the shots and has the final say. Which brings me to my next point…
2. You Are In Charge of Your Life (Mostly)
College is kind of like adulthood with training wheels. You get to make a lot of major decisions about your own life, but you’re still not totally on your own, and (in most cases, at least) not financially independent. College, for many people, is the first time you get a taste of freedom. You can go where you want, eat what you want, and hang out with who you want. If you want to stay up until 3 a.m. watching Gossip Girl and eating cheese sticks, you can! If you want to wear a crop top in January, you can! While you may come to realize that there was logic behind the rules your parents made for you, it is still satisfying to feel that all of your decisions are yours. However, if you ever mess up badly, you still have something of a safety net in your family and/or college community.
This sense of independence also makes the academic side of college easier. Whenever I am feeling bogged down or overwhelmed by work, I remember that I made the decisions about what I am studying. I selected these classes because I have a genuine interest in them. Recognizing this makes completing my work so much easier than and more gratifying in high school, where I was basically just working towards the graduation requirements.
3. Your Teenage Years End
Looking through Facebook pictures of me from middle and high school is a trip. Who was that gangly, pimply, awkward girl? Why did she think it looked good to do her hair like that? I’m not a supermodel now or anything, but it’s amazing how much more comfortable I feel in my own body compared to when I was fifteen. And it honestly just came with time—with learning about myself and building my self-confidence (and I won’t say that getting my braces off didn’t help).
I have heard lore that there are people who actually enjoyed teenhood—who had good friends, looked hot, and were on top of their game. That sounds preposterous to me. For those of us who felt weird, out-of-place, or uncool in high school, college is a time to shine.
4. You Gain a Greater Perspective on the World
I don’t mean to sound pretentious, or like I’ve become totally wise since coming to college. I’ve been here for eight months, and in that time I’ve probably attainted about 0.0001% of the world’s cumulative knowledge (we’ll see if we can get that up to .01% by the time I graduate). Still, I am amazed by how many diverse people I have met and how many interesting things I have learned here. I’ve discovered so many opportunities and ideas and outlooks. The world just seems bigger. I’m still figuring it out of course, but it feels like there is a place for me—a way for me to be happy and fulfilled and to offer something back to the world. And that places seems within reach.
If you are having a hard time in high school right now, and you feel like you’re not working towards anything, I have this to say: just hang in there. Even if these points may not necessarily apply to your situation, I promise that your life will get better after high school. It will get better in ways you can’t even understand or imagine right now. You’ve just got to hang in there.