How to deal with being the youngest at a college

arjai101 asks: So, I applied to that technical university I told you about, and I got in. And, I decided to dual enroll there full time. Up until now, I’ve felt confident in my decision, but now I feel like I’ve just signed myself off to two years of loneliness. See, we were supposed to have a practice class or some orientation. But, it turns out that wasn’t for us!!! So, I have no idea how I’m supposed to meet other students like me on campus. It will literally be like finding a needle in a haystack. One of the reasons I chose to dual enroll was I thought it would be a good way of finding a tight-knit group of friends. But now, it will be absolutely impossible. I’m going to be on that campus all alone, and all my friends at my high school don’t exactly have flexible schedules, and I can already feel myself drifting away from the group. It’s just a natural thing that happens. Some might suggest, just make friends with those college kids; it’ll be fun blah blah. But let’s be realistic, what college kid is going to want to hang out with a 16-year-old?! It’s like being a freshman times two. And even if I miraculously did manage to make some college friends, it’s not like my mom would approve. So, I’d just be sneaking around her all the time, which would just be a massive headache. My mom will argue that there will be some nice campus kids from church on campus. But, I don’t want anything to do with them. I don’t want anything to do with our church; I can’t wait until I don’t have to go there. I don’t agree with about 90% of their views. Plus, the campus church kids will just want to make me study the bible, and I’m not exaggerating at all. So I guess my question is, what am I supposed to do about this? I’m still in clubs at my old school, but nothing is the same now that I’m not there every day. They went back to school three weeks ago and my first day is this Monday, so I’ve had three weeks to realize how lonely it is. I thought that this practice class/ orientation would help me meet some people, but apparently, that isn’t the case. What do I do? I don’t want to go back to my school. Plus, it’s a little late for that.

Hi arjai101 –





I am so impressed, and, to whatever degree a loving pooch can claim connection to you, SO PROUD OF YOU!!! I’m gonna be walking around today with my chest sticking out EXTRA far! WOW!


Meanwhile, your question makes lots of sense. I think I’ve told you about my friend who started college even a bit younger than you, who had mixed feelings about having done that – in some ways great to be the youngest there, and in some ways not.


But as to your overall question, I actually have an answer. Not based on her experience, but on my own.


When Handsome first brought me home from the pound, I was only three months old, and the veterinarians told him not to take me to a dog park for another few months, so I’d be old enough to handle possible diseases that might be there. I’m a very social pup, so it was really hard for me to handle being kept away from other dogs for that long. And when he finally took me to a huge park with tons of dogs, I was ecstatic – ran around ready to play with everyone. And they were…


Well, some of them were only barely interested in me. Sniffed me, let me sniff them, but then they went on their way. Others wouldn’t even notice me. And then there were still others who barked at me and chased me away. I was miserable. I mean, I had Handsome there, who would come up and give me pats and hugs, but no one would play with me. I was crushed. And on the way driving home, Handsome told me, “I’m so sorry, puppy. You reminded me of being a kid on my first day at school. In fact, I think you reminded me of every kid the first day at school.”


But he then did something very smart. He brought me back the next day. And this time I wasn’t as eager or pushy, and a few dogs walked up to sniff me. And then, as I walked around, I found a dog who’d play with me for a minute. And then I found another. And another.


And soon, I met someone who would change my life. An Akita-mix named Kuma. Kuma had come from an abusive past, and was afraid of most people, and played so roughly most dogs didn’t like him. But he and I were made for each other! We played so hard and crazy that both of us were exhausted by the time we left the park. We did so well that Handsome and Laura, Kuma’s human, started planning to be at the park at the same time so we could beat the daylights out of each other. And then to have some play-dates outside the park, and even sleepovers when one of the humans was out of town! Kuma became the best dog-friend I ever had.


So why am I telling you all this? Because this is exactly what’s going to happen to you at college. You’re going to go and feel there’s something wrong with you because you’re young. Someone else will feel there’s something wrong with them because they’re older, or short or tall or skinny or plump or athletic or unathletic or a certain race or a certain religion or… Everyone there is going to feel like an outsider (except those who have friends there already – and they’re likely to wish they could get away from them and meet the cool new people around them). And this feeling might last five minutes or five days.


But it will end.


Somehow, you’re going to meet someone you like. Who likes you. Who is interested in the things you’re interested in. And who’s going to want to hang out with you.


And how do I know this?


Because everyone starting school there wants exactly what you want – friends, ways to have some fun, and to stop feeling so alienated and lonely!


So you have two jobs, arjai101. The first is easy – just to help the process along. What can you do to let people know what you’re like? Do you dress in a way that shows your interest? Even a t-shirt with a favorite singer on it is good. Handsome met one of his all-time best friends at a party because the guy wore a t-shirt that showed he’d worked on a movie Handsome was excited about. The guy at first laughed at how enthusiastic Handsome was, but it did start their real friendship. Or maybe you like to dress in a certain fashion that shows something about you? Anything like that is good.


And even more so, practice how to talk about yourself. What would you like people to know about you? You want to shift away from the church you’ve been in – that’s fine. Maybe you’d like a new group of friends who shares your doubts or political beliefs. Great! Just see if you can get those into a conversation.


And biggest of all, although everything I just said involves focusing on yourself, do your best to focus on the other people there. When you go to a class and sit next to someone, introduce yourself and ask them about who they are. Where are they from, why are they at that school, what do they do when they’re not at class? The more curious you are about other people, the more they’ll like you. (Unless you get creepy – “what kind of underwear do you have on” or something!)


Everyone there feels just as you do. So they’ll be eager to find ways to get together – parties, restaurants, anything. The more you can be part of that process, getting things happening, the better. And eventually, you’ll find that no one cares – or remembers – that you’re younger than they are. They’ll just know your unique qualities, just as you know theirs.


But now we move onto your other issue, which is your mother’s concerns. I’ll be glad to help you out in any way I can, but you and she have got to come to some sort of an agreement about your social life. If she wants to insist on meeting whoever you go out with, sniff your breath each time you come home, and not let you stay out past ten, so be it. But she has to realize that you’re devoting yourself for four years to a group of people, and it’s unfair to ask you to not hang out with them. (Especially as it’s good for your later career to build more relationships there).


So I’d suggest you sit down with her soon, before you start your classes, and try to hammer out some rules. Rules that would apply to your first year only. But rules that allow you to see other kids than just those from your church. I wouldn’t even bring up your dislike of the church to her – just talk about the need to meet lots of your new fellow students.


You have achieved something incredible. All I want is for you to be able to jump into it with all the joy and excitement it offers.


And I know you can. And that this can be the most amazing amazing experience!


And who knows? Maybe you’ll even find a Kuma!


Love and SUCH PRIDE!




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