College life is the first step towards independence from your family and community. You begin to learn and experience things other than academics, such as soft skills, perseverance, mindset growth, traits and habits, social and emotional skills, and character. The first day is full of sadness, anxiety, and loneliness because you realize the comforting presence of parents, siblings, and close friends is gone.
The first two weeks are the most difficult because you have to cope in a new environment, with people, and with your current situation. Although frequent communication with family can instill some confidence and the feel-good factor, the realization that their physical absence is irreplaceable via phone calls creeps in and make you feel broken inside. The third and fourth week presents the opportune moment to break your cover and overcome your anxiety. Therefore, you start identifying potential friends by examining their personalities, behaviors, and feelings, albeit silently. Slowly, you make a few friends and develop attitude and values, social and emotional skills, and creative and metacognitive skills.
The first challenge during semester one in college is maintaining friendships, positive self-image, and empathy and reducing levels of antisocial behavior. You learn to accommodate your friends based on behavior, emotions, and personality because they are never alike. The major difficulty is managing your emotions and behavior as well as accommodating those of your friends. Soon, you realize these friends are so important in your life to risk losing them.
They become a part of your life, make fun and laugh together, form academic groups, and share secrets. Phone calls to your parents become less frequent, and you start focusing on your academics and events happening in your life currently. At the end of the semester, you realize college is a holistic growing experience where you expand your mind and work towards a future career. However, one must have friends to make the experience and success enjoyable.
The new experience, friends, and desire to achieve your study goals will motivate you to return for the second semester. At this moment, you would have learned to manage your schedules, get along with friends, and look after yourself without even realizing it. Confidence is the other key attribute that becomes prominent during the second semester. You gain the confidence to socialize with classmates besides your friends, address the class, make time for wellness and exercise, and shop for food and personal goods. Personal tastes and preferences, such as dressing choices, spending habits, haircuts, and self-image, are most likely influenced during this time, perhaps by peers or others within the college. However, you have to balance spending with emotional intelligence and financial discipline. I believe college life teaches one financial discipline because you balance your lifestyle preferences to sustain yourself during the study semester.
Freedom in college is impressive, but it comes with responsibilities because you are a student and an adult. You have to be organized and take ownership of your mistakes to succeed. For instance, there are fewer external structures and reminders to manage your time, hand in school work, and maintain discipline. Therefore, you learn to treat your college like a job, where you show up daily, keep up with classes, and be prepared to put up more effort without coercion. In some way, the freedom and “silent” rules impact your situational and emotional intelligence- a life skill everyone should have to coexist with others.
Emotional intelligence equips you with the ability to maneuver and interact with your own emotions and those of others (Kurdi & Hamdy, 2020). It will always ensure you deal with negative emotions and anxiety when having pressure and take criticism without blaming others.
Parents and guardians play a significant role in advocating and fulfilling your needs, but that responsibility rests on your ability to speak up in college. Life at college teaches self-advocacy and self-care because you learn and practice identifying and explaining your needs to others, including seeking help if needed. For instance, I realized it was never plausible to inform my parents if I was sick. Instead, I had to find a doctor to check it out. Also, I realized the importance of speaking out if something is unclear because another student may be experiencing the same. It plays a big part in personal growth because you learn to become a great team member, and vital for everyone looking for leadership.
In conclusion, the college experience offers far more than education. It equips one with traits and skills, such as self-control, perseverance, social skills, critical skills, and critical thinking, needed to survive in the public, workplace, and other societal contexts. College helps students develop personality, principles, determination, self-discipline, financial discipline, and confidence. Having to adapt to a new environment, bond with students from different backgrounds, and make critical financial and lifestyle decisions are among the experiences that impacted my life in college. I feel more confident today because I can practice self-regulation, manage personal schedules, balance my lifestyle and keep healthy, interact with my emotions, and build strong relationships with classmates and tutors due to the college life skills.
Kurdi, S., & Hamdy, N. (2020). Emotional intelligence: What do we know and what is new? A review. Malaysian Journal of Medical Research, 31(2), 363-370.