By Madelaine McBride
In the eyes of every young student, the month of August marks two events: the end of summer and the start of school. And for people roughly between the ages of 18 and 22, that means either starting or returning to college.
Only a few short days ago, thousands of sophomores, juniors, and seniors returned to the beautiful University of Findlay campus. I am one such senior who has been blessed to call Findlay my home for the last three years, and I am looking forward to seeing what my senior year holds.
While we upperclassmen have been settling back in, hundreds of freshman students are beginning to call our campus their new home for the very first time. Now, while moving back to school is an adventure at any year, the years that I think have the most exploration attached are freshman year and senior year.
Before moving into Findlay as a freshman, the first thing any potential student has to do is agonizingly wait for a certain special letter that begins “Congratulations.” Once they see that one magical word, they feel as if fireworks and confetti have exploded inside them and, if they’re anything like I was, they dance around the kitchen. Then from November through the following summer they feel as if they can conquer anything life throws at them because they have been accepted into the college of their dreams.
Preparing to move in to college as a senior, however, involves a different combination of emotions. True, there is plenty of excitement; you’re a senior now, the tippy top of the undergraduate totem pole. At the same time, your undergraduate career is almost over. Done.
Kaput. When you move back to Findlay, you are starting the beginning of the end. It may be exciting, but I think it’s more bittersweet than anything.
That brings me to the next comparison between freshman and sophomore year: the inevitable distress and worry. For the majority of incoming freshman, college is the first time that they have lived on their own. Most students find this newfound freedom liberating, but it can also be terrifying. With freedom comes responsibility. So it is inescapable that incoming freshman will feel worried, overwhelmed, and homesick at some point.
But seniors feel that way too. They worry about what they are going to do after college. Will they get a job that they like? Will they get into graduate school? There are so many unanswered questions seniors bring with them to school. These unanswered questions cause seniors to feel overwhelmed, because there are so many unknowns and what ifs. They don’t know what’s happening to them and it’s stressful.
Two things seniors don’t have to worry about are packing up to move back to school and navigating campus once they arrive. By the time they are seniors, students have figured out what they need and don’t need at school. They have been able to whittle down and build up their college essentials as needed. Seniors also have the ability to not look at the location of their classes till the first day of class, get up at the last possible second, and still arrive to class on time because they know the campus. Knowledge is indeed a powerful feeling, my fellow seniors.
Freshmen don’t know these things. When shopping for college necessities, they just grab the things they think they’ll need and hope they’re the right things. Often they’re not. Then when freshman arrive on campus everything is new and they have no idea where anything is, so no sleeping in for them the first day. It’s a very small-mouse-in-a-big-city kind of feeling.
As I’ve sat here writing, I’ve begun to wonder “Where has the time gone?” Just three years ago I was the scared little freshman who didn’t know where things were and wanted to go home. Now I’m a senior worrying about getting into graduate school. Both years definitely have their challenges, but all I can say is that they should be enjoyed. You only get one shot at each.