Vincent Mastromatteo

Dealing with the anxiety of going to university

By  Vincent Mastromatteo, Youth Speak News
  • June 12, 2015

For high school seniors, the end of the school year is approaching. While this normally brings relief and excitement for the summer, high school graduates face the uncertainty of what is to come. Starting university or college is, after all, a leap into the unknown.

Earlier this year, I began the daunting task of picking university programs to apply for. After making my decision, I still feel anxious over the future. Starting new courses, making new friends and adjusting to university life seem like a lot to handle at once. I see my friends gripped by the same anxiety over university, especially those going into difficult science programs.

The path of a high school student is fairly straightforward. Our courses and options are more or less given to us. As I began plotting my university timetable, I realized the newfound freedom I had.

I was freer than ever to set my own schedule and courses, something all high school students are getting for the first time. This freedom is nice to have, but at the same time it’s a new responsibility.

I suppose that some of this fear is understandable. After all, we’re made to believe that our postsecondary program will shape our entire lives. While it’s true our future careers are important, it seems as if too much worry goes into it.

When I was choosing programs, I got the impression that my choice would determine my entire future. It seemed to me that committing myself to four years of study in one area would set me on a path for life.

While it’s true that this choice is important, I can’t expect to know everything. I realize that I’m young and that it’s all right to have some uncertainty about where I’ll be in the future.

Starting university is not all doom and gloom. Part of me is excited to move on to a new environment, with even more to see and do.

I’ve found it helpful to talk to current university students, those who’ve gone through the very same challenges we’ll face. I’ve spoken to students who’ve changed their field of study after realizing their first choice wasn’t for them. Their stories made me realize that our first university program is the life sentence it’s cracked up to be.

After accepting my offer of admission, I felt like I was leaving everything behind. It dawned on me that the familiarities of high school would be gone next fall, and I would be forced to start over.

I went through a great deal of anxiety around this time. Starting high school wasn’t the easiest experience for me, so I loathed the thought of having the same problem entering university.

After four years of high school, most seniors have established themselves. Obviously, it feels difficult to give all this up and start anew. In retrospect, I felt the same way starting high school.

As I began Grade 9, my high school principal used an interesting analogy. He said that moving from elementary to high school is like being a big fish in a small pond to a small fish in a large pond. Starting university, we’re small fish yet again, while the pond gets even bigger. It’s tough giving up what’s familiar, but we all have to at some points in our lives.

Over the summer, we should all take some quiet time to reflect. Our faith life can be a comforting constant as we go through so many new beginnings. University chaplaincies can be a great way to stay in touch with our faith while meeting other Catholic students.

As I graduate high school, I’ll look back warmly on the last four years. I don’t know everything that’s to come, but I’ll find my way as everyone else will.

(Mastromatteo, 17, is a Grade 12 student at Brebeuf College School in Toronto.)

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