*Written by Zoe Aaron*
From kindergarten to senior year, you prepare for the dreaded return to reality once a year. You go school supplies shopping once a year. You experience the night-before-the first day jitters once a year. You get new teachers once a year.
The transition from high school to college comes with many well known and widely discussed challenges. However, there is one major difference between high school and college that is often overlooked until you are thrown into it – that is the two first days of classes.
While all of these experiences are unbelievably nerve wracking, you are only left to face them every September. While filled with immense anticipation and anxiety, soon enough a routine is developed and that frantic September prep slowly fades into oblivion.
However, what no one tells you is that familiar annual cycle that you experienced for the entirety of your academic career, now occurs twice a year, once you reach the years kids looked forward to since the start of school – the coveted college years.
While having two semesters, and therefore two “first days of school” is known among incoming college students, it is not talked about. And, when your face is buried in your Biology textbook at 12:45 a.m. the night before your final exam, the thought of starting anew in just two short months, seems so unbearable that we just ignore it.
In addition to being disregarded, having two first days of school is also expensive. You have to purchase new notebooks and folders for each class, (which if you are anything like me – neurotic – each class has its own color assigned to it, so the post first day delirious hunt around Staples for matching folders and notebooks is one that is only sustainable once a year) you now have to do not just in September, but also in January, where color selection is frustratingly lackluster. In addition to the adrenaline spike that is a trip to Staples, you also have to purchase the textbooks for each new class. The days of being gifted one textbook per class each year are unfortunately long gone.
In addition to the days of textbook gifting being gone, so is one’s routine. Being a freshman, I developed a routine around my first semester schedule. By week 4 or 5, I had a system in place, each week closely emulating the last. However, when I returned to campus after a long winter break, I was struck with the terrifying reality that my beloved routine was no longer effective. This leaves me, and other first year students, back in the same deer-in-the-headlights position that we so naively thought we passed after completing our first semester.
While having two first days of school brings another level of anxiety and expenses, there is one plus side: two syllabus weeks. Syllabus week, or as its supporters refer to it, “sylly week,” is the first week of classes in the semester. While the first day of classes is daunting and filled with anxiety, sylly week is quite literally the opposite. There is often little to no homework, as the only thing being discussed in class is the syllabus. Any sense of responsibilities are simply avoided and the class anxieties are channeled into social gatherings each night of the week. Students often consider this week a fake week, pushing all troubles for the following Sunday – the scariest of all Sundays.