When I first stepped foot on my school’s campus, I was determined to make a name for myself, academically. I didn’t want to party. I didn’t want to meet boys. I just wanted to do my schoolwork and graduate with a 4.0.
As is the case, with most Mechanical Engineering students, I lost that 4.0 freshman year and I needed to have a new plan. I wasn’t the most intelligent person in any of my classes. I was actually probably the least bright, but I worked really hard to try to keep up with everyone else.
I spent every weekend hunched over a desk reading my textbooks, rewriting my notes, doing practice problems, and trying to be prepared in any way I could.
I worked so hard, all the time, and was still getting mediocre grades, just like the rest of my classmates (except for those annoying smart people that just immediately understand everything and make the rest of us hate ourselves).
I finally decided senior year after I watched my GPA steadily decline from a 4.0 to a 3.12 that no matter how hard I worked, the material was just difficult to grasp, and I might as well make the most of my last year.
This was one of the best decisions I ever made.
I traded in my Friday night study sessions for parties and building memories with people I’m not going to see much of anymore. My Saturdays were reserved for fun fraternity or Sorority events and spending time with my hunky new man. Instead of waking up early on Sundays and hitting the books, I slept in and emotionally prepared myself for the week ahead.
And my GPA barely dropped (3.08)!! There’s something to be said for how you perform academically when you are happy socially and romantically.
So advice from an old lady (22)
with a cane in a cardigan: Study your hardest, but also try your hardest to have fun because those textbooks will always be there when you need to look something up in the real world. Those friends won’t be. Your GPA is a number that your first employer looks at. After that, they are looking at work experience and references from previous companies.
When I went away to school, I had just started dating a guy from back home. We were happy and he was nice and we both thought we could make it work. And we were right. We could have made it work if we were the right people for each other. I’m not saying that long distance relationships can’t work out – they totally can, but just not when you aren’t meant to be with that other person.
I moved away to school and was very lonely since I didn’t know anyone. I was glad I had a boyfriend back home to talk to and encourage me throughout my first semester. But, second semester, I met a guy. I met a great guy, and we had an instant connection unlike anything I had ever felt with anyone.
I didn’t want to break up with my boyfriend who I knew loved me for a guy who may or may not have felt the same way I did. Why would you ruin a sure thing for something that might not work out? That just seems irresponsible.
I decided to stay with my boyfriend but wasn’t able to mask my feelings for this other guy. It caused so much tension with both of them. My boyfriend didn’t allow me to hang out with this other guy because he didn’t like how close we were and the other guy wanted me to break up with my boyfriend, not only so we could be together but so I could just be my own person and make my own decisions.
My boyfriend was very controlling and, looking back now, I realize, very manipulative. It was the kind of thing where everyone but me could see it. My parents didn’t like him, my sister absolutely hated him, and my friends went back and forth on not being able to stand him and barely being able to tolerate him.
For the first part of our relationship, I ignored all that because I loved him, deeply and truly, but when those feelings started going away, I ignored what my family and friends said, just to prove a point.
I’m a very stubborn and very competitive girl. I like to prove my point and I like to win. What I thought was winning in this case, was staying with my boyfriend all through college, conquering the distance, and proving everyone wrong who didn’t like him or that we couldn’t do it.
I was wrong. Winning is following your heart and being with the guy that makes you more happy.
When my boyfriend and I finally broke up near the end of my senior year, I expected to be met by an “I told you so” from each of my friends, but I wasn’t. I was met by love, support, and encouragement.
The boy from freshman year and I never had our chance to be together, which is probably good. I would have hated for that relationship to end disastrously. Before I moved home after graduation, we had a nice talk and agreed that we both held a special part of each other’s hearts – and that is all I could have ever wished for.
Now he is in a happy relationship with another girl from our school and I am in a happy relationship with the perfect boy from school and life is exactly the way it should be.
It’s safe to say that my college experience would have been completely different if I hadn’t joined my sorority. I still don’t know if it was overall good or overall bad. It kind of feels like a wash. I don’t know if I think that my sorority enriched my life so much that it was worth everything I put into it. It started off great. I got my bid. Got my big. I loved the chapter I joined. But after four years of growing and changing, the chapter I left was not the one that I accepted a bid from in Fall 2012. The chapter that I graduated from was corrupt. The sisterhood was a façade. Our sisters were bullying each other while other groups on campus bullied us too.
Freshman year was amazing. I joined an amazing group of girls who I admired and looked up to more than I even knew was possible. My big was the coolest person I’ve ever met in my whole life. She and I didn’t really have much in common, but maybe that’s why we got along so well. What we did have in common is that we were both from out of state. So she totally knew the struggle I was facing when I didn’t get to go home to my family. My grandbig was a senior when I entered the chapter. She was on EC. She was the leader that I aspired to be some day. I loved almost every girl in my pledge class. We were small so we were tight. We stuck together through everything. Second semester of my freshman year, my big took another little which stung a little bit, but could having a twin really be that bad?
Sophomore year was full of my sorority. I lived with 3 other girls in my pledge class which was great. I held many positions including VP. I organized meetings and helped officers plan their events. I really enjoyed being on EC. I loved the responsibility, but the president at the time was constantly undermining me at every turn. She was a complete control freak and refused to let me do any of my work without her looking over my shoulder, but I understood. If I was president of this chapter, I might do the same, and I really hoped I would find out some day. I took a little my sophomore year. It was kind of an interesting scenario because my little was actually older than me, she just decided to rush as a sophomore instead of a freshman. She and I got along great! We had many classes together and we could enjoy each other in and out of sorority life.
Junior year is when everything hit the fan. First of all, I decided to take two littles, which I thought meant that I was doing something nice. This way two girls get their first choice of a big, right? Wrong. It just created a tension and a competition between those two girls for who could paint me the bigger canvas or who could write the longer Instagram caption for my birthday. I lived in an on-campus apartment with two of my pledge sisters and one other sister. When the third sister literally went crazy and threatened to hurt one of us, she moved out and one of my littles moved in. One of the littles in competition for my love. This didn’t bode well for ANYONE. I ran for president of the sorority that year and lost… to my big’s other little. To the girl who joined late, stole my big, and then stole the presidency from me. I accepted a different position and became the New Member Educator. Losing the presidency sent me into a huge downward spiral. I didn’t want to deal with any of it anymore. I didn’t want to live with my pledge sisters anymore. I was tired of putting up with their mess and their noise.
Eventually, though, I got over it. Senior year, I became the New Member Educator that I remember having as a Freshman. The one who is so peppy and responsible and inspiring and I initiated all but two girls who received bids. I took ANOTHER little senior year because the chapter that was once so full of life had become apathetic. Nobody wanted to be a big sister. Nobody wanted to put the effort in to have a position. Everyone just wanted to wear the letters around campus and not have to do any work. At a big school that is probably possible, but in a school as small as mine and a chapter as small as ours, everyone has to do a little bit of work to keep the chapter afloat. I lived senior year with the same girls as junior year – two pledge sisters, and one of my littles. Everything was fine until we all received our littles who were also the new members I was educating. These girls were brats. These girls were bullies. These girls had never made it out of middle school. They were all about spreading rumors and making petty comments behind everyone’s backs. One of my roommate/pledge sisters littles tweeted something so mean about me when she was upset one day that I almost dropped my sorority after eight semesters. After four years of the work I put in. After the amount of money I poured in. After all the presents I gave to my littles and roommates – to have someone PUBLICLY bully me ON SOCIAL MEDIA was the last straw. I reported the tweet she sent to our (adult) advisers who assured me that they took care of it. I know nothing of her punishment, nothing of what compelled her to attack me, and nothing of how to force myself to get over it. This all happened in May and it still keeps me up at night.
So as you can see, my sorority experience was less than ideal. I used to tell people that a sorority could be whatever you made it. If you wanted it to be rewarding, it could be but you would have to work hard. If you wanted it to be a cakewalk, it could be but you really wouldn’t get anything out of it. Unfortunately, this is not always the case. I worked very hard for my sorority and for my sisters and still got burnt in the end.
If you plan on joining a sorority, that’s great. You probably won’t have the same experience I did. But if you are on the fence and you aren’t sure that you really want to put so much time and money on the line to get scorched in the end, do some thinking and some soul searching. Plenty of girls make it through school without joining a sorority and they turn out just fine. Always remember – professional fraternities are always an option.
As I have mentioned, I am from Massachusetts but went to school in Tennessee. My college experience was excellent and terrible – sometimes at the same time. Here are ten things I realized way too late about going to school out of state.
Traveling is more expensive than you think
Plane tickets are expensive. Gas is expensive. Traveling is expensive. If you will be responsible for paying for your own traveling, this is something major to consider. My dad and I decided that he would fly me home for Christmas and Summer. All of my other flights were my responsibility. I missed every Thanksgiving and I missed three out of four Easters. It’s hard to shell out $500 when your monthly income is $0.
You will miss your family on holidays even if you don’t think you will
Luckily, I had an uncle nearby when I was away at school. He let me stay at his house whenever I wanted and I spent every holiday there which was nice – but it was not the same as being at home with my family. All your friends will leave for the holidays and you will be stuck at school with nowhere to go. Your friends will offer that you can come spend the holiday with their family but it won’t be the same either.
Your family will do stuff without you
All four years I was away, my family had already gotten the Christmas tree by the time I had gotten home from school. That had been a family tradition for all of us to go together, but I missed it four times. Christmas isn’t the only thing: I missed September trips to the Cape. I missed family weddings. I missed cookouts and picnics and quality time with my family that I will never get back.
Everyone will continue to age
Just because everyone is healthy when you leave as a freshman, does not mean everyone will still be healthy when you get back after senior year. I will never forget the day sophomore year that my mom called me to tell me that my grandfather had a stroke. That phone call wrecked me. There is no worse feeling than being trapped somewhere when all you want to do is get home. My dad also underwent a pretty serious operation during my senior year that I couldn’t be around for and that was an even worse feeling. Not only will your human family members age, but your pets will too. Think about the average lifespan of the breed of dog or cat you have before you make that decision.
Your pets will start to favor your siblings
This was a serious problem for me, right here. The amount of Saturday morning Snapchats I received from my sister snuggling with my cat was almost enough to make me drop out and move home. Karma used to sleep with me every night, and she continued to sleep in my room for a while after I left, but it was a cold winter and she needed my sister’s body heat. Also, your pets may be afraid of you for a while once you get back, especially if they don’t recognize your smell.
You will be miserable and alone the first time you get sick
Luckily for me, I didn’t get majorly sick until the second semester of my senior year. I had somehow gotten strep (which my biology major roommate diagnosed me with) and needed to get antibiotics. But where do you go to the doctor when you’re out of state? I ended up going to the Little Clinic in Kroger and they took great care of me. But I really did miss having my mom there to make me tea.
On the other side of this, you may be able to get through it if you have a mom-like friend. My junior year all three of my roommates came down with the flu all at the same time. Don’t ask me how I avoided catching it because I really have no idea. But I took great care of those girls. I went out and got everyone the cough drops they like, Vics Vapor Rub, tissues, soup, tea, anything else they wanted. The thing is, though, if I had caught that flu too, we all would have been out of luck and that week would have been a lot worse.
Your health insurance may not be valid
Many people use the a Minor Med type facility when they have a non-urgent medical need, which is great, but the problem from being an out of state student is that those Minor Meds are associated with local hospitals and therefore take local insurance. Your insurance may work just fine, but I have heard many horror stories of people receiving treatment and then owing an enormous bill they weren’t expecting.
Your bank may not have a branch there
When I started school, I was using Bank of America and everything was fine – those banks are everywhere, but my sophomore year my dad decided to switch us to a smaller, local credit union with lower fees, but that credit union didn’t have any branches near my school. I would either take out a lot of cash to travel to Tennessee with me (which is risky) or use the ATM at school and pay a fee to take out my own money (which is ridiculous). Although this is by no means life threatening, it is annoying, and definitely something to keep in mind.
You may starve if you don’t have a car
The uncle that I previously mentioned had decided to get a new car just as I was starting school so he sold me his old truck which I used whenever I was down there. It was a good thing too. The cafeteria at my school closed at 7PM every night. That is so early!! You are going to need a snack past 7PM sometime in the four years you are at college, I promise. Also if you stay on campus during Spring Break or Fall Break, it is likely that the cafeteria will not be serving food at all and you may need to find your own.
Even if you don’t think you will meet a boy, you will meet a boy
I tried for a long time to do the long distance relationship while I was in college. I’m not saying that long distance relationships won’t work. They definitely can if you’re with the right person. The right person for me wasn’t the guy I was in a relationship with. My right guy was the one I met senior year after doing long distance for three years. Even if you don’t think you will meet a boy at your school, you will. Even if you think college isn’t the right place to date because you need to focus on your schoolwork, you will. I never thought I would meet someone down south but I did and it was a huge problem in my life when I had to end my long distance relationship. That’s a hard thing to do.
Four years is a long time and although transferring is an always option, it is and expensive and lengthy process which might cause you to lose some of your credits. I was determined to finish what I had started and graduate from the school I had started at, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t struggle. Looking back now I don’t know if I’m glad I chose that school or not there were definitely a lot of ups and most certainly a lot of downs. I’m not trying to talk you out of anything. I just really want to make sure you know what you’re getting into by going to school out of state. Don’t make this decision without weighing each of these and thinking about how they will affect you and your family. You are not the only one that will miss your family. They will miss you too.
I knew exactly what I wanted to do with my life right when I entered high school. I knew I wanted to be a Biology major and I knew I wanted to be a Biologist after that. I wanted to wear the lab coat and work in a lab doing all sorts of cool experiments. I had it all worked out, at 15, yaknow, until I realized I was wrong.
My sophomore year of high school I took Biology and loved the Cellular material but anything remotely having to do with anatomy would give me the heebie jeebies. Junior year, I took Zoology and that was a literal disaster. I nearly fainted during every dissection we did. It was clear that I wouldn’t make it through four years of collegiate biology material.
So with my life shattered, not knowing what to do with myself, I began thinking about what other majors in which I was interested. I had always loved math and science. I took Physics as a senior in high school and it was arguably my favorite class. So then, I knew I wanted to be a Physics major. Unfortunately, when you tell people you want to study Physics, they ask you difficult questions like, “What kind of job are you trying to get with a degree like that?” – a question to which I did not have an answer.
So I started thinking about possible majors AGAIN and decided on engineering. As you probably know, there are many different types of engineering degrees and that there is a pecking order in which they are ranked. Because my mom had graduated with a Civil Engineering degree and I had to be just at liiitttlle bit better than her, I chose Mechanical Engineering.
Just because I decided on my major before I stepped foot on my college’s campus for my first day doesn’t mean that I didn’t regret my choice or want to change while I was there. Getting that degree was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, but I’ll save that for another post.