My teachers in high school used to say that “college would be different.” Usually, they were referencing the idea that expectations of college students are higher than they are of high school students. For most of my high school career, I didn’t think much of those warnings. When I learned of my admission to Princeton, and felt my future beginning to roll out in front of me, I panicked. How right were they? Was I going to be able to handle the rigor of my college coursework? Was I going to be well prepared?
Three years later, and I’d tell my high school senior year self to take a deep breath. In some ways, college is certainly more demanding than high school. Your professors are going to expect that you genuinely engage with the course material — not just regurgitate memorized facts for a test. They’re going to expect that you care about what you’re learning, because you’ll find most professors have dedicated their lives to studying that very subject. Balancing coursework in college is something some people also find tricky — class schedules are less structured in college than in high school and can make it difficult for first year students especially to properly budget their study time. You’ll be surrounded by tempting opportunities to ditch the books for time with friends, extracurricular groups and campus events.
But, in my experience, it’s not that college is more difficult than high school. The best way to describe it is merely to say that it’s different. You’re studying what you love, so you’re going to care about all your classes. You’re going to want to prepare for your classes, because you’ll grow to know and care for your professors on a personal level. They’ll care about you, too, and the vast majority are very understanding if you’re unable to meet a particular deadline or need special assistance in class. You have more resources available than ever before to make sure you succeed — everyone from residential college deans and Peer Academic Advisers to the McGraw Center for Teaching and Learning has your back. And, you’ll be surrounded and motivated by other passionate learners every day. You’ll see a substantial reduction in the amount of “busy work” you’re assigned, and you’ll spend your time on more meaningful projects.
Believe me, your academic preparation is good enough. Nothing can really prepare you for the totality of your Princeton experience. But, relax: you’ve got this!