I didn't want to go to college. I decided in sixth grade that I was going to be a movie star and I didn't need college. That was my mentality my first year at High Point University. Looking back, I wish I had made the most of my freshman year instead of going through the motions.
My mom told me I had to go to college, so I knew I was going to go. When it came down to time to decide, I didn't know where to go. I had great options - North Carolina State University, Appalachian State University, the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, and High Point University. The problem was, I wasn't passionate about one over the other and I didn't want to leave home. I finally chose UNC-G and decided to live at home and commute.
My first semester of college was a struggle. I wasn't prepared for the self discipline it took to get to freshman seminar on time, I wasn't dedicated to doing well in my classes, and I was nostalgic for the simplicity of high school life. It was a mess. My GPA was less than stellar, and I wasn't completely sure I was where I should be. I started the process to transfer to High Point University, although I wasn't sure that was the answer either.
Once at High Point, I tried to enjoy college more. I tried joining some clubs, but ultimately I didn't have much reason to spend time on campus because I lived at home and still had local friends, so I didn't make many friends at first.
I was a theatre minor, and thank goodness for that - it forced me to spend many hours on campus working on shows. Through the theatre program, I started making friends.
During my senior year (fifth year I might add), HPU got a new sorority - Alpha Chi Omega decided to start a chapter there. This was my final attempt at making college somewhat meaningful. The process was a lot of fun and I ended up being not only a founding member of the Kappa Omicron chapter of AXO, but serving on the first executive board. I had a blast.
A few months later when my collegiate years were coming to a close, I wasn't ready.
I went on to attend graduate school at Appalachian State University. I had always been interested in ASU, but was never brave enough to do it. Although it was tempting to attend grad school at HPU and stay with my sorority sisters, the mountains were calling.
My time at Appalachian State was undoubtedly the most pivotal time in my life. I get chills writing about it. Getting away from home and making a new home in the mountains of North Carolina was an invaluable experience. In fact, it was essential. I cannot imagine my life without it. The spiritual and personal growth I experienced was phenomenal. I had a whole different outlook on life after Appalachian. I am a better person because of my time in Boone, North Carolina.
So there's my story; now here's my advice.
1. Go out on a limb.
If you want to go far away for school, don't let fear paralyze you. It ended up being good for me to be at home because I got to spend a ton of time with my grandma for the last couple years of her life, so I don't regret not going away - I just know that getting away from home lends way to new perspectives and adventures. Even if it's hard at first!
2. Join clubs and organizations!
Joining the right Greek organization can be an awesome experience as long as you make sure to stay grounded in your morals and beliefs. But say no to hazing! I met some amazing women by joining Alpha Chi Omega. I was a maid of honor in one of my AXO sisters' weddings last year and now I'm the advisor for the AXO chapter at HPU, getting to work with awesome women throughout the school year and attend fun and informative workshops in the summers. Greek life doesn't have to end after college!
Joining a campus ministry (New Life) at Appalachian was SUCH a wonderful decision. Not only did I meet one of my best friends for life, but I grew so much in my Christian faith by having like-minded believers surrounding me and encouraging me. I'd recommend joining a faith-based group to anyone with any religious affiliation. I wish I had done so at High Point University.
3. Stay true to yourself.
Don't look around and try to mold yourself to the standards of others, or what seems to be the "norm." I teach high school, and I know that's how it is there. But in college, being different is more "cool," thank goodness. Definitely work hard and make good grades, but also take time to have fun. Find a balance. Don't have too much fun! College can be a time when it's tempting to get off on the wrong path. It is so easy to start following the crowd and doing what they do, and often that can lead to danger. Just because Mama and Daddy aren't there to make sure you're acting right doesn't mean you should go crazy and get in trouble!
4. APPLY EARLY AND APPLY FOR SCHOLARSHIPS!!!
Apply to the schools you want to get into EARLY. Find out the earliest deadline and have your application in by then. There's so much competition out there, so the sooner you apply, the better your chances are of getting into the schools you are interested in.
Apply for every scholarship that you think you can get. There are so many scholarships out there and no reason not to get FREE money!
There are also many loan options, so if money is an issue, it doesn't have to keep you from reaching your dreams. Know there are resources that can help. Like Earnest for example. They have a ton of information about how you can save money by refinancing your student loans! Check them out.
5. Make the most of it!
These four (or five :)) years will FLY by. Enjoy every minute, and don't take it for granted! The real world and a steady income may seem appealing, but you should never wish your life away. College is an amazing time in life. You get to make your own schedule, meet tons of new people, try new things, and learn so much. Don't waste any of it! Savor everything college has to offer.