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Surprising ways college does (and doesn’t) change you

 Written by    September 8, 2019

College is one of the biggest transition times in life. It hits right in the time of life when you’re trying to figure out how adulthood works and who you are as an individual separate from your family and the place you were raised. During some typical reflection time on my life and the first two thirds of college, I realized how unexpected some of the changes in myself were, as well as the things everyone told me would change and didn’t.

The opinions and characteristics that have changed

  1. First of all, I’m so much more conscious about the world around me. I know this is what some older generations refer to as an “idealist phase,” where every emerging adult thinks they can change the world and make a difference, but I don’t see this as a phase. I’ve been doing a lot of research and little changes in my life surrounding topics like ethical and sustainable shopping, zero waste living, minimalism and, for lack of a better phrase, doing my part. I research every clothes company I’m interested in shopping at and avoid those that use unethical labor (meaning they employ children, don’t pay a living wage, have dangerous work environments, the list goes on). I’m much more interested in buying used and already existing products than increasing the demand for production. I’m invested in solutions that can help save the biodiversity we are quickly losing (stop buying products with palm oil, kids! Its production is killing off orangutans).
  2. I also don’t fit into a single political bubble. I agree with points on both sides of the political spectrum, and after being introduced to new ideas and perspectives in college, I have a political ideology all my own. I was never too invested before college—plus, I couldn’t vote so I felt like it didn’t matter—but my scope was also limited by where I was and who I knew. College has put me in some uncomfortable situations that have pushed me to alter some opinions and helped me better develop arguments for those beliefs that have stayed the same.
  3. This last one is something that’s a lifelong process, but the change since high school is astounding: what other people are thinking or doing really doesn’t matter at all. I notice this change most when I talk to people who are still in high school. In those years, everything matters SO MUCH. What people choose to do with their time, who’s friends with who, why someone wore something . . . it was all everyone’s business. The fact that I spent so much time and energy and emotion on that stuff seems crazy. I had blinders on. I couldn’t see how big the future was. Everything in that school felt like the biggest thing that could happen. My fears of what others thought of me and my attachment to drama lingered for a little while, but overall, they’ve faded. At the beginning of college, I was putting on makeup to go to the gym. The GYM! I dressed nice for every class. I curated my Instagram posts so everyone knew how much fun I was having. I’m so happy to continually put that part of my life behind me.

The opinions and characteristics that have not changed

  1. I had a few loving names assigned to me in high school, like “try hard” and “overachiever.” I was a perfectionist. I was the teacher’s pet. I was a straight A student no matter how much sanity it cost me. So many people told me that would go away in college. No one looks at your GPA in college! Straight A’s don’t matter! You’ll change! You’ll see! Oops. I didn’t. I still won’t accept anything less than an A, and I’m the annoying student that says she “failed” an exam when her score is in the 80s. That part of me just hasn’t budged. My grades are still one of the most important things to me.
  2. I was also told that college would immediately terminate my young, foolish, unimportant high school relationship. They assumed that high school students couldn’t have serious relationships that last. Well, I’ve been with my boyfriend over 4 years now, so I’d say that in some cases, staying in a high school relationship can be okay.
  3. And finally, sorry my fellow millennials, college didn’t convince me that “religion is for the naive and scientifically illiterate.” I’ve heard that most people walk away from their faith in college, that they “grow out of it” or were just going to church because their parents made them. I’ve seen it, too, with students around me. But I’m still Christian, I’ve met my fair share of both wise atheist and Christian professors. Just like I said earlier. College teaches you to let go of other people’s opinions. Religious or not, it’s all about respecting each other and doing what makes you happy and fulfilled, and I love my on-campus church (shout out to H2O and their weekly gift card giveaways!).

I didn’t realize how much just two years could form me into a new person. I also took everything anyone said about college as truth, so I had no clue that there were some pretty big parts of myself that wouldn’t change at all. I know that a lot of people say you don’t need to pay for four years of college to get a job, but even without the degree, I think your college years really help you figure out who you are. Classes are only part of the equation. College is such a transformative time for you to get clarity and direction on who you are and where you should be. I doubt that any of these changes would have taken place without Ohio State, and I couldn’t tell you if I would have stayed the same in all the ways I did, either.

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