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In the social hierarchy of both high school and college, freshmen are known to be at the bottom of the totem pole. As newcomers to the school and the youngest students, they are often the most gullible to misconceptions and pranks at the hands of upperclassmen. But with that four-year gap between freshmen in high school and freshmen in college, what changes? As a current college freshman, here’s my take on the matter.
High School Freshmen
For freshmen in high school, the one overarching goal seems to be getting into college. Although everyone chooses very different paths towards that goal, whether it be through athletics, music, STEM competitions and internships, there is a general formula that offers some sort of security. As a freshman, the main goal at hand is to find your niche and potentially recreate yourself. Middle school was probably characterized by identity crises and self-doubt, so for many people, high school brings visions of going through complete makeovers and finding popularity and acceptance.
While freshmen in high school are concerned about fitting in, finding friends, and exploring extracurricular interests, first years in college are worried about professional career goals. College tuition isn’t cheap by any means, and the realization that one day (or even now) you have to pay off your loans and bills is a powerful catalyst for you to try and figure out your life before it’s too late. In college, students are surrounded by success stories. With the impending deadline of applying to majors, fulfilling prerequisites, and building a strong resume for securing internships, it’s no wonder that first years are often scrambling to piece their lives together.
High School Freshmen
In my opinion, there is less stress for academics in freshman year in high school compared to the first year of college. As a freshman in high school, my transition to the environment wasn’t the smoothest. I was poorly informed on many of the things that I would have to watch out for, something that many of my classmates without strong upperclassmen connections also experienced. I didn’t know just how important grades were, and didn’t know that freshman year is the easiest time to get top marks that could potentially cushion future mistakes.
As a result, I didn’t work as hard as I should have.
In my first semester of college, however, I knew what I had to do. Grades are incredibly important, no matter what my future goals are. In college, especially, I knew that it would be even tougher to achieve high marks, as the competition pool is now a lot fiercer. However, I learned from my experiences in high school, and that determined and informed mindset improved my confidence and performance in my classes. Though I’m not certain whether or not I want to apply for professional schools later on, having an ideal transcript allows me more freedom in choices.
Also, now that the tuition runs in the tens of thousands of dollars, I’m a lot more motivated to make the most of my time in college.
High School Freshmen
In high school, many people not only go through considerable intellectual and mental growth, but also physical growth due to the wonders of puberty. I was not one of those people, but oh well.
Freshman year in high school is characterized by growth, as you become more independent and start developing your own identity and perspective. Although parental guidance is still there, ultimately it’s you who is doing the work, investing the time, and signing up for clubs. For freshmen, it’s all about exploration. In my experience, freshman year is the golden opportunity to find your likes and dislikes and discover the activities and interests that you’ll want to continue in future years.
For first years in college, the majority of the growth experienced is through newfound independence. Many people go out of state, or even out of country for college, and subsequently the change of environment is much greater than the middle school to high school transition. You are now living away from your parents, and you have to manage your own time, classes, activities, responsibilities, and ensure that you stay healthy and well. It can be a huge challenge, but even after just one semester you’ll have become a much more independent person. For me, I learned to strategically prioritize and plan, so that I would still get to enjoy the college experience without having too much academic stress that would affect my well-being.
High School Freshmen
I remember in high school, every club and organization was doing everything possible to recruit freshmen. Whether it be offering free chicken nuggets, burgers, pizza, ice cream, or any possible yummy treat, they competed for new recruits. As a freshman, the power was in my hands. They were at my mercy. I just had to pay the $5 membership fee and give them my contact info.
In college, it’s completely different. Especially for business fraternities and consulting groups, the competition is insanely fierce. I have never experienced anything like it before. For one of the consulting groups I really wanted to get into, I attended one of their info sessions and two of their case studies, making sure to sign in so they could add points for my continued interest. Out of the 300 people who completed the comprehensive application, I was selected for an interview. After that, I made it to the final thirty and attended a welcome event and then a coffee chat. After my second interview, however, I didn’t make the cut into the final six. It is quite mind blowing just how competitive these things are.
Though there are major differences in the experiences of freshman year in high school versus college, both are similarly wonderful. There’s nothing like getting a new start in a new environment, because that’s when there are the most opportunities to really explore your interests. Though my freshman year in high school wasn’t the best in some parts due to drama, the things I set out to do set the groundwork for my future growth and achievements. Now, in my first year in college, I’ve met the most incredible people and had the most inspiring experiences. I can’t wait to see what the future holds, and I hope for people in their freshman year right now, they feel the same way.
Are you a current or future high school freshman? Download CollegeVine’s Guide to Freshman Year to help you make the most of your first year of high school.
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