I’m on a mission. While walking around the campus of my dream college, I try to blend in with all the college students to get a feel of what life is like at the University. As it nears lunchtime, I eagerly join a crowd of hungry students and walk into the dining hall like I’ve eaten here one hundred times. A blonde sophomore even asks me if I know what the special is for the day. I’m getting good at keeping my identity as a high school junior unknown.
After gathering what seems to be a normal quantity of food, I wait in line to pay. Shoot. I completely forgot. Everyone has a meal card to swipe. My folded up dollar bills and quarters are going to give me away. I decide to act cool and collected, hoping to keep this a secret between me and the cashier. Of course, trying to act slyly has just the opposite effect. As I grab my tray off the counter, my quarters go tumbling to the tile floor. Smooth, right? Mission failed, cover blown. I might as well be wearing an “I’m still in high school” sticker on my forehead.
Giving up on my mission to blend in, I spot a seat in the corner of the dining hall and sit down as the real me, a curious high school junior.
As I stare at the seemingly infinite amount of college students around me, I dawn on a piece of advice my English teacher once told me: “Everyone has been in the same boat, touring colleges, asking questions, and feeling overwhelmed by all the older kids. Remember that every student is an ambassador to their school and wants to help you. Ask for their help.” Replaying this advice in my head, I look up and imagine hundreds of “I’m still in high school” stickers around me. These college kids are just older versions of me who are on the other side of the college process. In order to join them on the other side, I need to listen to that piece of advice. I need to embrace, not be embarrassed by that invisible sticker on my forehead and start seeking help.
This sticker is two years old now and has since been replaced. As a first year college student well into my second semester, I am still slowly pealing the “I’m a first year” sticker off my forehead. Older students can see it dangling over my face when I get lost on campus or ask questions that might seem obvious to them. My advice to juniors or seniors immersed in the college process is not to fear dropping your quarters in the dining hall or feeling out of place during college visits. Remember to ask for help and be curious and passionate about your college search. At first, everyone feels out of place in new environments; it’s a natural feeling so don’t fret about feeling that way in college. As my second year begins in the fall, I will be sure to pass down the “I’m a first year” sticker to the upcoming freshmen with a grin on my face.