By Gabrielle.

When Beth first wrote to me, she mentioned that she might not resemble my typical reader. After getting to know her better these last few weeks, I sure hope she’s wrong; I would love a hundred Beths adding their smart voices to my pages!

Beth is a college student – ahh, remember those days? – and I jumped at the chance to follow her through her day. She has advice on choosing a college, positive assurances for all your stressed high-schoolers about grades and test scores, and concrete ways to overcome homesickness and other difficulties when you’re far away from family, not to mention it’s simply great fun to see this professional-in-training before she embarks on her chosen career. If you ever wanted a glimpse into a young adult’s college life, here it is. Welcome, Beth!

Hi everyone! I’m a junior at Elmira College. I’m a childhood education (elementary) major with a concentration in visual and performing arts. My days this term are spent student teaching in a first grade classroom.

All students are required to live on campus all four years, so I live in an on-campus dorm. I’m currently student teaching about half an hour away, so I have to get up pretty early around 5:30. I really dislike getting up before the sun rises, so it usually takes me a few minutes to get out of bed!

I share a bathroom with about 20 other girls. Luckily, at 5:30 in the morning, I’m usually the only one up, so it’s usually not too much of an issue. The hardest part is doing my hair; I try to wait until just before I leave so that I’m not waking everyone up at 6:00 with the sound of my hair dryer.

I have a wonderful roommate. We get along really well, but there are also challenges. She’s a nursing major and has clinical at night. This means we are on completely opposite schedules. She likes to sleep in, so I try to be really quiet when I get ready in the morning. The hardest part is probably getting ready in complete darkness. I’ve found that it helps if I get everything ready for the morning the night before, like packing my lunch, putting everything I’ll need in my bag, and picking out my clothes.

Like most mornings, I’m eating a bowl of cereal – today it’s Frosted Mini-Wheats – in my room. When I don’t have to be up so early, I like to go to the dining hall for a bagel. The college has homemade bagels that are really yummy, so I’ve been missing those this term. I almost never miss breakfast since it’s my favorite meal of the day. I’d rather get up earlier than skip eating in the morning.

As I write this, it’s my first week in the classroom, but I already love the class I was placed in! The students are great and I really like my cooperating teacher. One of the things I’ve noticed so far about the school is how much communication there is between the various teachers, administrators, and other staff. It seems like a really nice place to work. I also have a seminar related to the student teaching once a week. I’m hoping to go to grad school for library science. I’d really love to combine my love of kids with my love of reading and books, so I want to become a school librarian.

I’m done with student teaching at 3:30. I carpool with two other students to my student teaching placement, and we usually get back to campus around 4:00. Because Elmira is a small school, you really get the chance to get to know all of the other students in your major. I’ve had classes with both of the girls I carpool with since freshman year, so we know each other pretty well.

We talked about our days at school today. The other two girls are in fourth and fifth grade classrooms, so their students had state testing today. They’ve both been so surprised by how stressed the students get!

We also talked about the infamous Freshman 15. We all played sports in high school but weren’t interested in playing at college. Add a lack of regular exercise to college food and you’re definitely going to gain weight. Something I’ve noticed, though, is that I’m actually more comfortable with my body now that I was when I was skinnier. I’d love to be fit and have a strong body, but I’m also happy with the body I have now.

As for the other big concern for college students, partying can be problem. It’s never been an issue for me because it’s simply not my thing. I don’t really enjoy big crowds of people cramped into small spaces. But there are so many other distractions to deal with when you’re on your own: friends, the internet, Netflix, procrastination. I can’t say that I’m always the best at avoiding those distractions. I’ve always been a procrastinator, so that’s one of the biggest challenges.

It’s important to find a balance between it all. Doing assignments and going to class is really important, but it’s also important to have a life outside of that. Figuring out how to manage your time effectively helps you find that balance. I try to spend at least some time with friends every day. Some days, it might just be for an hour or so at dinner, but on the weekends, we try to do some more fun things. As I’ve spent more time at college, figuring out how long assignments will likely take has also helped a lot. If I know that something will take a couple of hours, I might try to get it done earlier as opposed to an assignment that is most likely going to take 30 minutes at most. I’ve also learned to not stress quite so much when I know I haven’t done an assignment as well as I probably could have (unless it counts for a large percentage of my grade).

When I got back from the car ride, I got right to work on my lesson planning and preparations for the next day. If it’s a good day and I’m ahead on my work, I try to get outside and go for a run or a walk, but it was really cold today, so I didn’t go.

I get together with a large group of friends every night for dinner. We’re all on different schedules during the day, but we try really hard to all eat dinner together. My family always eats dinner together, so I really enjoy having a regular group of people to eat dinner with every night. This is always one of the best parts of my day.

We have a regular meeting time at 5:15, and those of us that live in the same building walk over together. There are three different eating places on campus, but they are all in the same building so we can get our food from different places but still eat together. We almost always eat at the same long rectangular table. It used to be just a few of us, but now there are sometimes so many of us that we have to put tables together. We often stay in the dining hall for quite a while, talking about our days, venting, and laughing together. Our college is over 70% females, and our dinner group is pretty much always all females, so it isn’t unusual for us to talk about girl stuff, like periods or guys.

Tonight’s conversation included plenty of topics, including our love of food (pizza in particular), the classes we’re taking, student teaching (several of us are education majors, so this is a typical topic), and our plans for the weekend (we’re thinking bowling would be fun).

After dinner, I usually have plenty of work to finish up. I typically do my homework in my room. I know it sounds a bit hypocritical because I want to be a librarian, but I really dislike working in the library. I don’t get distracted by people being loud in my dorm or my roommate playing music, but I do get distracted by the people walking past my computer at the library.

I usually have to take a trip over to the library to print things for the next day’s lesson since we have free, unlimited printing there. The school where I’m doing my student teaching follows a scripted program, so my lesson planning isn’t super original. Although I’m not a huge fan of scripted program, I do like this one. The lessons are interdisciplinary so that the students learn literacy skills through social studies and science.

The students are currently learning about the Revolutionary War, but I’m planning lessons for the next unit, which is about frontiers. The first few lessons are about Daniel Boone. Because it’s a scripted program, preparations don’t take quite as long as it would if I were writing my own lesson plans from scrap, but they still take quite awhile. I don’t want to read from a script when I teach because that isn’t quality teaching, so I try to read the plans in-depth and really know the information. The amount of work can still be overwhelming at times, but I was well-prepared for that aspect of teaching since my mom teaches second grade. I try to go to bed by 9:30. I’m a person that really needs those eight hours of sleep to be at my best. If I have time, I like to journal or read before bed, but that rarely happens.

I actually think I was pretty well-prepared for college. If I was asked to give any advice to high-schoolers and their parents, I think the most important thing is to find the right college – not for everyone else, but for you. There are plenty of great colleges out there, but the trick is to find the one that will fit you perfectly. I ended up having to choose between two colleges I really loved. I knew I learn best from discussion-based classes, so I ultimately chose the college with the smallest class sizes. Tthe biggest class I’ve taken had 25 students, and I’ve had two classes with only three students. Although the other college was an excellent school (my sister is actually a freshmen there this year), it wasn’t the right college for me.

There are only two things I would change about my high school experience if I could go back. When I arrived at college, I hadn’t taken a single art class since seventh grade. I’ve now taken almost every single art class my college offers – ceramics, printmaking, sculpture, painting, drawing, art history classes – but I wish I had taken art in high school.

I also wish I had paid more attention to my emotional and mental well-being. I didn’t realize until I got to college and had an excellent freshmen year that I realized I had not been in a good place mentally for most of high school. My sophomore year, I was finally diagnosed with mild to moderate depression, and I really wish I had recognized the symptoms earlier. One of the great things about being in college and living on campus is that it isn’t as difficult to get medical or emotional help when you need it. Most colleges require you to pay a fee for the health center, and that fee generally includes free counseling with a psychologist or psychiatrist. I was able to see a great psychologist right on campus who was able to help me through a difficult time.

I think the thing that ended up being more unimportant than I had anticipated were grades and SAT scores. As long as your grades are pretty good and your SAT scores are within a pretty decent range, the actual grade/score doesn’t matter all that much. I’ve found that to be true in college as well; you want to get good grades, of course, but it doesn’t matter all that much if your grades aren’t perfect. Also, I highly recommend taking the ACT in addition to the SAT! I felt that the test was far more fair than the SAT, and most schools will accept either.

As for homesickness, I have a really close family, so I was really nervous to leave home. I was surprised to find that for me, it was a pretty seamless process. I think the most important thing is to find a good group of friends as quickly as possible and get involved. I also find it helpful to call my parents, siblings, or friends when I am feeling particularly homesick.

Although I transitioned to college life really quickly my freshmen year, I became really homesick my sophomore year. Sometimes when I miss home, I’ll listen to country music, which is the only music on the one radio station we get at home, and look at old photos or read my yearbooks. I miss my hometown and high school friends the most. I grew up in a small, rural town. My family hikes often and loves spending time outdoors.

So one of the biggest adjustments for me was getting used to living in a city. At home, I can walk four minutes to a hiking trail, but here it’s really hard to hike without a car! I miss living in a small town that gets completely silent at night and where everyone knows everyone. I had a really close group of friends in high school, and while I’ve made wonderful friends here, it’s not quite the same. After all, my friends from home have known me since kindergarten or before – I’ve been friends with one of my best friends since pre-school! At college, the longest they can possibly know you before graduation is four years. Oh, and I also miss being able to shower barefoot!

Being a college student can be really stressful. There is always plenty to be done, whether it’s homework, extra projects (I’m working on research with a professor and four other students), or club responsibilities (I was the president of the Yearbook Club this year and I’m in a couple of other clubs as well). In addition, there are both pros and cons of living in such proximity to so many people, including your friends.  Your friends become your family for the time you’re away from home, and that can be wonderful, but also can put a lot of stress on friendships. Living away from home can also make maintaining relationships with your family and old friends difficult.

So it can be really hard to turn your thoughts off at night. Before I fall asleep every night, I’m usually thinking up different ways to balance it all, but I try to end with a positive thought and replay what was good about the day.

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Thank you so much, Beth! One of the sweetest things to me is how considerate Beth is in the early mornings, from prepping everything she’ll need the night before to running her hair dryer as late as possible so as not to wake the others living around her. Those of you with teens might be envisioning the mad rush in your mornings, highlighted with hastily made lunches, lost backpacks found just as soon as they yell “Where is my backpack?” and a race to the car with shoes in hand and bagel in mouth! It’s lovely to know there’s hope!

Is anyone sending their kids off to college soon? Did Beth’s day lessen your stress a little? I sure hope so.

P.S. – You can see all my Call It A Day posts right here. I really relish this peek into your days, so please don’t be shy if you’ve got a unique and inspiring circumstance to share! Let me know! It’s a lot of fun…I promise!