‘Growing’ to College by Kasey Whitenack

Updated: Apr 29, 2021

The hidden fears of freshman year.


I’ve always been the type of person to believe in signs–be it from the universe, some higher power, or God, and as I sat down to write this, debating if this is even a good subject, a butterfly flew by and landed in front of me. So I’ll take that as my sign.

There are countless movies that show college students doing what many people think college students do. Typically it’s partying or at least some overdramatized depiction of Greek Life. What many movies don’t include is the jarring transition from high school to college. It is an inevitable situation for many, and yet it is also one of the most ignored aspects of college. According to a study done by the Health Alliance Plan of Michigan, about 69% of first-year college students experience severe homesickness. I for one, know that I did and during it, I felt stranded and alone. It wasn’t until I realized why I felt that way did it make sense. 

Fernando Cobelo

For one, college requires leaving a home. A place that is often full of childhood memories, of both the good and the not-so-good, with the moments that shaped you, and the secrets that would be held there forever. While some can’t wait to escape it, for others it is difficult to leave the comfort of those four walls. (Not to mention how big of a shift it is to go from having your own room to now sharing it with a complete stranger.) After getting to college and looking at the plain white walls, with minor chips from previous residents, and the lofted beds (that I had to stand on my minifridge to even get into), it’s hard to see that room becoming a new home.

For many college students, college is the first time where there isn’t an adult sleeping near-by to make sure that they are keeping up with themselves. And while personally, I was always rather independent, there were many things I still looked to my parents for. It was the shoulder to cry on, the advice from an adult, and the overall sense of being loved that I realized I was leaving behind. For others, it was the tight-knit structure of a family that they were going to miss. And that’s something no graduation present or gift card can replace.

“At first I was excited to get some freedom and have my own space since I never really had the opportunity when I was younger,” college sophomore Karina Torres said. “However, it was a little scary because I would have to do things on my own and would not have my family to turn to when I had questions. Also being away from my family meant that there could be a possibility of something happening and I would not be able to do anything to help.”Not to mention leaving behind childhood pets is equally as painful. 

“One thing that I missed the most was my dogs,” college sophomore Jonathan Dominguez said. “I could easily FaceTime my old friends and I eventually met new ones, and I usually visited my parents during the weekend and call them daily, but my dogs are my pure joy - and it saddened me to not see them as often as I used to. I remember crying to them the day I moved to college! It was just really hard as I was hundreds of miles away, not knowing if they were alright or doing good without me.”

Sören Selleslagh

  And finally, perhaps the saddest part about leaving for college is all of the friends that you no longer get to see every day. You go from seeing the same people every day to seeing a whole new group of people. For me, I knew a couple of people who decided to attend the same school, but I was never really extremely close to them. Part of me always thought I would live that cliche college life and wind up going to the same school as one of my best friends. Living in a dorm room together, hanging out all the time, studying together, etc. But that didn’t happen with the people I thought I would do it with. I moved to a college where my closest friend wound up being 182 miles away and the furthest being 1,145 miles. 

Luckily so many people in college are starting over social-wise. There are so many people that are also struggling with the fact that they feel alone. The main solution is to put yourself out there and find a group of people to hang out with. Be it from a school organization, people from work or a class, or even simply people down your hall. There are people out there who will be friends with you...you just have to look in the right places.

“I’m a very social person, so I tried my best to meet as many people as I possibly could to overcome that homesickness,” Dominguez said. “Most of my friends right now are from previous classes and clubs! I’d then meet their friends and bond with everyone around. Meeting your people truly makes your dorm/apartment/etc be your new home, and I’d usually find myself call Rawlins [his old dorm] my HOME!!” 

 Despite all the anxiety and painful goodbyes, there is a ‘happy ending.’ It’s because of all of those emotions and new experiences that you get to build yourself. Because now you get to make even more memories, and those paint-chipped walls slowly become a second home. There will of course be bumps along the way that make you question whether or not you’re even ready. There will definitely be times of crying by yourself, but there will also be times of staying up until 3 in the morning on a school night just to watch random videos with your friends. Of course, there is the option to go to parties, but there is also the chance to just stay in and watch movies. 

When asked if college was as scary as she initially thought, Torres replied with the following:

“Not at all college has actually been really fun and I have made awesome friends and strengthened high school friendships which have allowed me to make good memories and not focus on everything that can be scary. It’s part of me growing up and therefore I know I have to face stuff alone.”

College truly is one of the massive milestones of becoming a “grown-up.” It is a big shift going from feeling like a child to suddenly being on your own (and also worrying about student debt). I always had called myself grown, but I never realized just how grown I actually was. For many people, college is a time to figure out where you are and, as dumb as it sounds, find out who you are. Being on your own allows you to look at yourself and gives you the freedom to figure out where you want to go in life. Someone once told me that college is a chance to leave behind the drama of high school and start over. I always thought they were being dramatic, but essentially college gives you the chance to explore yourself both mentally and physically. It is all about whether you embrace the experience or not.

Because in the end, “college will only give back to you if you give into college.” (A direct quote from my freshman year RA.)

By Kasey Whitenack

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