College Isn’t a Fresh Start (Unless You Want It To Be)

Why You Don’t Have To Become a New Person in College

By Sneha Dhandapani August 2, 2023
College Isn’t a Fresh Start (Unless You Want It To Be)

College is often depicted as this golden place that grants fresh starts, where students can step foot on campus without their past tagging along. I had this expectation last August that I’d find my people after transforming into a ‘new person.’ Who this ‘new person’ is – I couldn’t tell you. I learned less than a few months later that while college provides this golden opportunity to become anyone you want to be, our dreams and past as well as current relationships still follow us. It’s more comforting than we realize to understand that a fresh start acknowledges that we have all had lives beyond the person we present to the University of Michigan.

I have spent my entire life in a suburban town, and while I didn’t know my entire high school graduating class personally, I shared a mutual friend with every person I encountered. It’s true that U-M is so much smaller by your second semester, but before that, this huge school is as enormous as the numbers prove. The first few days after I moved in, I longed to be again surrounded by people who knew more about me than my name, intended major, and hometown.

My first weeks at U-M were scary, but simultaneously the most exciting weeks. The hardest pill to swallow was that some people around me came to school with their high school friends, and because half a lifetime happens in the first weeks (and because I’m impatient), I was convinced that I wouldn’t find my people at U-M. With that welcomed the overwhelming need to change.

But this pill was a blessing because college isn’t meant to be a place to reinvent yourself for anyone but yourself. The moments of isolation were cause for self-reflection and the realization that I would find my people anywhere. 

When you arrive at U-M, you will not be a complete stranger to yourself. Your dreams, passions, past experiences, and relationships will still be yours. College is a chance for you to step away from what you feel attached to, but your memories will not physically leave you. When you’re completely on your own, it is definitely scary, but the growth and self-realizations that come from this independence are often so necessary.

I came to U-M thinking I’d study biology, but through trial and error and seeing where I felt most comfortable, I remembered that I wanted to pursue writing. Positive change in college typically isn’t shocking – odds are that you will only become a better version of yourself. I’ve always loved writing, but it took a new environment and people to remind me that this is always what I’ve wanted to do.

College isn’t exactly a fresh start. It’s a chance to restart and rethink your ideas, but as a first-year college student, you are likely still the person who you were when you walked across your high school stage.

Sneha Dhandapani

Sneha Dhandapani is a sophomore in the College of Literature, Sciences, and the Arts, where she is pursuing studies in cognitive science, philosophy, and creative writing. She is from the suburbs of Chicago although she often finds herself saying she's from Chicago.