8 things that are normative to a college experience, but still throw students for a loop

you change your major. In 2010, colleges reported over 1,500 academic programs to the Department of Education. Whoa. Some estimates claim up to half of all students will change their major. Choosing a major is an important decision. What you choose to study can define your life. However, keep in mind that a big part of college is self discovery, and there is no shame in changing your mind. The sheer amount of options for areas of study are why it is important to consult an academic advisor or a career counselor through your school.

you don’t get along with your roommate (even if you were friends with them before). Having some amount of disagreements or “drama” with roommates is all part of the college experience. Arguably more important than academics, college is a time to learn and practice general life skills. Part of this is how to live with someone who irritates you. Use student housing staff (like RA’s) as a resource to air your grievances and facilitate mediations. Be mindful of when you can do things to just get through living with someone who you can hardly stand (like wearing your headphones or studying more at the library), and when your health and safety is seriously at risk in which it’s time to find a different living situation.

you got straight As in high school, but now feel like you’re struggling. For many students high school classes were pretty easy. Maybe you were one of those students who rarely studied, and you procrastinated, but you were still rewarded with mostly Bs or better. The unfortunate part about that kind of high school student is that your good grades got you in to college, but you didn’t actually learn the tools that you will need once you get there. Know that things such as note-taking (in class and from the book), flashcards, study groups, and actually reading the text assigned are all things you will likely need to do to succeed in college even if you never needed to do those things in high school.

you’re poor. Tuition is expensive, and if you’re a typical college student you probably aren’t working a lot because you have to be in class. You may have classmates who eat out for nice dinners all the time, and seem to always have new things, but that isn’t really the college norm. Research ways to be thrifty. Many stores offer discounts to students, and banks can offer special accounts for students which have lower fees. Also, schools give out a lot of coupons to students and student rates for tickets to events. Be smart about how you spend your limited funds, and remember that all your hard work as a poor college student will pay off later in life.

you feel a little lonely sometimes. Some times you can feel lonely at college, and that’s ok. Feeling lonely is an uncomfortable feeling, and that uncomfortableness can be exacerbated when you’re in college because you are surrounded by people almost all the time. When you are lonely, remember that it’s normal not to have social connection at all times. It’s normal to have a night in by yourself once and awhile. However, know the difference between occasional loneliness and something more serious. Colleges can provide free and confidential counseling services, and it never hurts to take advantage of free things as a college student.

you don’t know exactly what you want to do with your major after you graduate. You may feel pressured to know what career and job you want because people keep asking you. Your uncle at Christmas: “What the heck are you going to do with a philosophy major?!” It’s kind of a fair question (but people don’t have to be rude about it). You are paying an unsightly amount of money to go to school, so what is the end result going to be? In today’s world, for many professional fields it is more important to simply have a degree than what the degree is. Keep this in mind to help yourself relax, and in the mean time, it’s a good idea to have a stock answer to satiate all those people asking questions.

you meet the one person you will spend the rest of your life with, or you totally don’t meet that person at all. A Facebook study found that of college graduates, 28% met their spouses in college. That means A LOT of people are meeting “the one” in college. You may be in that group. However, there is still a strong chance that you won’t meet your spouse in college. Either way, the important thing to remember is that college is a perfect time to date. You are surrounded with people who have a shared lifestyle and shared interests, and you’re surrounded by hundreds if not thousands of them. Going through love and heartbreak (and even emotions far less dramatic) is a key part of personal development, which is a big piece of going to college.

you’re feeling completely overwhelmed and stressed. This is so normal. College is supposed to be hard. You could think of college as your final step before independent adulthood. Your classes may be causing you stress because of their difficulty or just their sheer amount of work. You may be working or volunteering, and you may be trying to have a social life. Good time management and good stress management are two of the most important skills you will learn in stage of your life. A good rule of thumb is to give yourself 1-2 hours of study time for each hour you’re in class. When you add this to the number of hours you work and the number of hours you socialize, you start to see that time is really precious. You also need time to sleep and take care of yourself. It is a constant balancing act in college of using stress management and time management skills with deciding when it is time to cut back on commitments.