College is like technology. There are so many opportunities — figuring out where to start can be overwhelming. There is no set pattern or track. Each person is aiming for the same goal, yet the way to achieve this goal is not universal.
With pursuing that ambition comes independence in determining how to reach it.
No longer are parents holding your hands, nor reminding you to complete assignments or get to school on time.
When Christian Carlton, a freshman history major from Brewton, was in high school, his parents encouraged him to succeed.
In college, he said, his scholarship pushes him to do his best, but the lessons his parents taught him are still with him.
“Having my parents motivate me in high school forced me to prove to myself that I could make good grades, maintain my scholarship, and just succeed in general without them right there with me,” he said.
The high school bubble leaves little room for personal exploration or discovery. Students in high school are largely participating in the same pattern of taking the ACT, applying for colleges, completing scholarship applications, and anticipating graduation.
College, however, presents limitless opportunities. From classes to community service, college offers a broad yet individualized approach to connect with others.
The flexibility and responsibility that comes with choosing one’s classes allows one to hone in on personal interests while fulfilling academic expectations.
High school is consumed with thoughts, chatter and anticipation of events, such as prom and ball games.
The hallways are filled with flyers and announcements of the next production or club meeting.
Whispers and snickers fill the classrooms as students gossip over who is dating whom or which athlete will be the next MVP (most valuable player).
While such chatter may seem harmless, it can lead to the creation of a competitive environment revolving around cliques and self-image rather than boosting individuality and promoting connections with those who have similar interests.
Conversely, with a focus on the individual and his or her personality or qualities, college takes on an atmosphere of acceptance and inclusiveness that lacking high school lacks.
There is no extreme social pressure forcing you to identify with one group or the other.
College rather allows integration, exploration, and involvement in a variety of endeavors.
With more than 100 organizations on campus, there is bound to be an option that is appealing and satisfying.
For Julia Orcutt, a freshman physical education major from Helena, that option was the marching band. “I really wanted to be in band in high school but we didn’t have a band,” said Orcutt.
She wanted to try something she had never done before and found support and new friends from fellow band members.
The mindset, especially evident at Troy University, is centered on the relationships one is able to build with others.
“I am a shy person but college encourages me to be more open,” said Alanna Chatman, a freshman business major from Talladega. Chatman said she attended Welcome Week activities and on- campus events that helped her make new friends.
She initiated introductions and conversations with new students that she otherwise would not have in high school, due to the accepting and welcoming nature of the student body in college.
Daily, you see students mingling in the dining hall, holding doors open for one another, exercising on the quad, and participating in campus activities, all to build connections and relationships with fellow Trojans.
This type of relationship building is evident on the high school level, but the motivations that compel such interactions are not as meditated and intentional as in college.
“One of the reasons higher education persists and is popular is that people consciously or unconsciously see it as a place that their children will make long term relationships with the right sort of people,” said Alan Dahl, a sociology adjunct. “It’s the function of college as a place to build social networks.”
The dynamics that drive high school and college students differ in their overall mindsets and attitudes.
High school students concentrate on fitting in whereas college students are about singularity and more focused on networking through relationships whether for personal gain or for selfless motives.
Troy University exhibits a balanced environment where students are readily encouraged to adapt and engage in a variety of enhancing activities while maintaining personal interests.