Ahh, college. The glorious four years proceeding high school where freedom and individuality appeal to every 18-year-old senior. You finally get to move out of your parents' house, dishes can pile up for days without anyone saying anything, you party until 3:00 a.m. on Tuesdays, and drink cheap wine at lunch time.
For some people, that's not exactly how life after graduation plays out. Sometimes, freedom looks like a full-time sales job making really good money at the age of eighteen. Maybe three piece wardrobes, promises of rising the corporate ladder, and commissions have all the lure they need to pull you out of school your first semester and into "adulthood." At least it did for me.
So what happens after eight years of that "adult" lifestyle? What happens when you decided to go back to school in your mid-20's? Here are 8 signs you are going back to college in your mid-20s.
1. You pick homework and studying over going out with your friends.
The first weekend of my Maymester, my best friends wanted to go on a "Let's Kick Off The Summer" camping trip. I knew my weekend would look crazy with homework and studying, so I turned it down. Eight years ago, I would have said, "Um, heck yeah! Who even does homework? Let's go!"
Don't get me wrong. Every now and then, going out is so absolutely needed, and it's a healthy balance doing so. But when you have a pressing, eight-paged paper deadline ahead of you, you know the answer for your weekend plans. It sucks, yes. But, HashtagPriorities.
2. Speaking of priorities, yours are completely different than the girl that sits three chairs down from you that spent her weekend before the exam raging.
You know, the weekend that you decided to read and be lame and not go camping. The stories she tells of the guy she met last night at a party or the fact that she was so hungover she couldn't move reminds you of yourself, seven years ago. It reminds you of when you did all of those things because being drunk all weekend was the norm and bills, grades, and fresh laundry meant nothing to you.
(Okay, so you still suck at finishing laundry, but at least you do it and you wear clean stuff. The clothes might stay folded in the basket for a week or two too long, but hey. Progress.)
3. Everyone in class is wearing yoga pants, PJ's, and work out clothes, while you are wearing your outfit from work.
You can always spot the working student in your class that is going back to school. They have the tie, the blazer, the slacks, the dress, or the pencil skirt. They typically carry their belongings in a portfolio or a nice work tote, rather than a Jansport or Northface backpack. And they definitely never wear yoga pants. They probably are super jealous that majority of their peers can. Maybe a talk with their boss is in order about their office dress code...
4. You are the teacher's pet.
Ugh. The dreaded teacher's pet. Yes, yes, I know. We spent so many years of our existence trying to avoid this very title. Yet, here we are, answering every question right and getting weird looks from the nineteen-year-olds sitting around us. Also, laughing at the professor's jokes while others don't understand them typically give this one away.
5. You make good grades because you actually study.
When I first attempted college in 2008 at the mere age of 18, I failed all of the classes I was signed up in. It wasn't because I'm stupid. It was simply because I didn't care, I had mom and dad paying my way, and I was doing it to "appease" the mold of the "should's".
Now, the fact that I am paying my own way through school and working for the money, coupled with the fact that I actually want to earn this degree for myself and no one else, I actually study. I actually care when I make lower than a 92 on an assignment. Who'd have thought? I think I might be becoming a "nerd." (Don't tell 18-year-old me, please.)
6. Financial aid is really scary.
I mean, let's face it. I'm 25. I'm in a super committed relationship with the man I love. My biological clock is about to cross that line of, "um, hey, let's get a move on with this, 'kay?"
I don't want to incur debt upon debt from federal loans that I will bring into my marriage, family, or that my relatives for generations to come will be responsible for. I'm paying all I can out of my pocket. The term "Federal Aid" terrifies me and I avoid it at all costs (no pun intended.)
7. You might not fit in like you used to.
This one was really hard for me when I realized that my class was full of people at least 5-7 years younger than me, and our thought patterns just weren't aligned. We got along just fine, but I certainly wasn't going to get invited to any of their parties.
I never understood the difference between myself and a 20 year old until I went back to school and listened to their weekend compared to mine. Also, embarrassingly, I had to Google the terms "BAE", "Thirsty", and "Turnt" to keep up with some of the conversations.
8. 9:00 a.m. really isn't that bad.
We've been used to it for so many years. We wake up earlier than we have to so we can read the paper, watch the Today Show (or GMA, all you ABCer's), and slowly sip our morning coffees while relaxing before our day starts. We don't roll into class hung-over, sleepy, or disgruntled like some people do. (Come on, I know I wasn't the only one. See my life flashback, circa 2008. Yikes (and sorry) for any and all who encountered me.)
Not all 18-21 year olds are this way about school, and vise versa for those of us in our mid-20's. For those of you freshly out of high school, I commend you for being able to attend college and make amazing grades. Congrats on finding your purpose young. That really is an accomplishment, and you should be proud for the hard work you are doing.
For me, and maybe some of you, I woke up one day and decided I was super uncomfortable with the fact that I was content in my comfort zone. So, I did what any extremist does, and I ripped that comfort zone from under my feet. My safety blanket was gone, and I took on this new adventure of full time college, part time paychecks, and limited social lives.
Sure, it's kind of weird and even embarrassing at times saying "I'm 25, and I'm in college," when I could be saying, "I'm 25 with my Master's in English." But then, I wouldn't be the person I am today, now would I? Each experience led me here, and I'm grateful for the opportunity to go back to school in my mid-20's and finally discover my passion.
This post originally appeared on ForeverTwentySomethings.com.