Education Plus

The first taste of college

Welcome gesture: Making them feel at home. Photo: Sushil Kumar Verma  

After the final year at school draws to a close, the vacations that follow are nothing like those in the past. The students, gripped with nerve-wracking tension, worry about entrance exams, test results and quibble over the choice of colleges and so on. School uniforms would never be brought out, lunch baskets are discarded due to their sudden lack of sophistication and sling bags and vibrantly hued clothes replace heavy school bags and dreary uniforms.

A new academic year has made its presence felt, yet, something has changed. It’s time for a brand new year at a brand new institution. College life has arrived in style for several thousand students across the country.

Change of any sort can leave one feeling unsettled, and it is no different when it comes to the transition students face while moving from school to college. They are eager about what is to come and would have formed ideas based on hearsay from friends, seniors and family about how college life abounds in excitement.

“Freedom at its peak. There’s nothing like it.”
“We can choose our subjects. Such myriad options! You’re going to love it.”
“There are so many things you can do with your free time as college hours are shorter than school!”

These exhilarated outpourings come from people who have completed a year or two in college. But is this all what college life entails?

“No, not really,’’ says Pratham, a 17-year-old from St. Xaviers College, in Mumbai.

“It was a lot of fun the first few weeks and did not seem too different from school. And then began the drill. The standard of work expected is far higher, all too soon, as my friends and I learnt within a week of college,” he says. “Contrary to popular belief, one has to put in a lot of effort to make college the fun-filled experience it is projected to be. Work-life balance and prioritising become your mantra for the rest of your first year,” he adds.

Work-life balance. While the term is usually associated with office-goers and other employed members of the society, let’s pause and try applying it to the student community as well, for isn’t it one of the first changes that one experiences at the threshold of college life? If multitasking is important in the workplace, its training begins the moment one steps out of school and graduates into the world of college.

“One of the biggest indications of change in college life is the unwritten rule that students ought to ace their exams and make it to the honour roll, all the while making sense of what the teacher expounds in class, make their own notes, read piles of books while engaging in extracurricular activities on an extremely rigid attendance schedule,” reels off Vaishnavi, a 17-year-old from a Delhi college.

“It is undeniably a different world from school where everything revolves around a timetable. In college, one comes to realise that the timetable is merely a guide to getting everything done and not the last word. The boundaries between work and leisure become hazy. Internships, for instance, are a fun learning experience which one gets a feel of in college. But the teacher to whom we report for assessment of the internships, apart from the person we report to at the organisation, is sure to expect us to pull off the internship, studies and extracurricular activities with elan. It is definitely a lot of fun and extremely challenging, but no mean feat as my seniors described it to be,” she admits.

The balancing act
Syed Yasir, a first-year student of B.Com. from Loyola College, Chennai, elucidates the importance of balancing all aspects of college. “I come from Erode, where the kind of extra-curricular activities we have in schools here are not as common. Nonetheless, I did have my fair share of fun. However, there is no denying the leap from school to college. As I stay in the hostel, I have a lot of freedom. The difficulty lies in maintaining self-restraint as there is no control from the home front,” he explains.

“Also, when it comes to college, the focus in terms of life perspectives changes. In school, it was primarily academics and marks that mattered. In college, while academics is important, personality development is something that all of us have to work on. This can be done through the numerous opportunities available to us in the form of extracurricular activities. The challenge is to maintain a balance between the two. While academics is undoubtedly important, taking part in such activities helps shape one’s personality and prepares one for the outside world. How one does this while maintaining a reasonable academic record is what work-life balance in college is essentially about.”

Indeed, managing all college-related activities without letting your nerves jangle may seem impossible, at this juncture. What if you get top marks but have no other activity to show for on your resume? Won’t the that fancy university you have been dreaming of gaining admission into for higher studies prefer someone with a mix of academics and creative exposure? What if you don’t turn up to audition for that drama the theatre club is planning? Will it be a potential deterrent to your chances of making it big in acting as a career, in the future? After all, how many times have we come across stories where talent was spotted in a school or college play and there was no turning back?

Even as these thoughts rule the students’ psyche, the next thought to plague their peace would be the big one — what if I flunk in my exams or do not score well enough? What good then will my participation in other college activities be? Though work-life balance seems to be elusive, it isn’t. It can be achieved quite easily if you remember that donning the appearance of a rag doll isn’t going to earn you any brownie points with your teachers, if, out of lack or rest, you’re going to botch up upcoming targets. Rijitha, a first-year student of Christ University, Bengaluru, recalls how the first few months of college had her on the edge as the transition from school to college was not as easy as she had assumed it to be. “In school, I had been an active part of so many clubs and also aced academics with élan. I was sure college would be just as uncomplicated. I realised it was a thorough misconception. I spent so many nights in the first semester struggling to keep up with my academics studies coupled with the various activities I had signed up for,” she admits.

Here are some effective steps towards achieving the evasive balance between work, studies and fun.

NO: This is one time when the negative one-syllable word will not open up a can of worms for you. If you are usually a dedicated worker, saying no to a certain activity, once in a while, will not put you on your teacher’s hit list.

Rajalakshmi. S, a first-year BCA student from M.O.P. Vaishnav College for Women, Chennai, elaborates on how, much like most others, she too was under the impression that there wouldn’t be any great change in the while shifting from school to college in terms of the amount of studying that had to be done, or the number of hours of work that one had to put in. “After the start of college started, however, I understood that we have a number of responsibilities which are not just confined to the academic realm — programmes such as NCC, college culturals, and so on. But, the importance lies in being aware of how it is not wise to bite off more than what one can chew. There might be a number of situations where there is bound to be a lot of pressure to take active part in more programmes than we can handle or take on more courses for extra credit. Saying ‘no’ will not always be misconstrued as lack of interest as long as one is otherwise dedicated.

Prioritise: Clichéd though it might sound, make a list of tasks that you are expected to accomplish and set about finishing those that are of immediate importance. That way, even if a task or two get left out, you will still have the distinction of using your power of discrimination and wrapping up tasks that could not have been put off for later. Contrary to popular belief, teachers are human, are not paragons of virtue, and will not gun you down if a task that could be accomplished a day or two later was not completed right away.


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Printable version | Jan 20, 2022 3:24:26 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/education/The-first-taste-of-college/article14545815.ece

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