I’m very glad you wrote to us. I do want you to know you are not at all alone in these feelings. Often teens who were top performers in high school find the first year of college very challenging. In college, you are all now in the company of other smart kids who were at the top of their class. Standards are often higher. Demands for quantity and quality of work and sports participation are more demanding. Unfortunately, it seems that no one thinks to tell Freshman that they can’t expect themselves to be on top of all the other people who were at the top in their schools.
Sometimes what feels like a “crisis” is actually a signal to ourselves that we need to reevaluate our priorities and the choices we are making. I suspect you didn’t lose yourself so much as you lost a clear idea of what’s important to you now that you have left high school. You aren’t trying to get into college any more. You’re in. It’s not humanly possible to do all you used to do in high school at the college level so what do you want to do now? If your identity isn’t tied up with doing so much and getting straight As, who are you?
Being busy, busy, busy will make it harder to delve into your most compelling interests. Here are some facts that might surprise you: 75% of college students change their majors before graduating. One study showed that overall a little over 7% of high school athletes (about 1 in 14) went on to play a varsity sport in college. Most students try out many clubs and organizations before finding the one they are passionate about.
You’ll only find what is most important to you by giving yourself permission to maybe leave behind things you did in high school. My advice is to drop most of the clubs and to reconsider whether running is still important to you. By freeing up time, you’ll be able to attend lectures, seminars and concerts that interest you and you’ll be able to sample what different organizations offer.
You may need help sorting all this out. Many young people in your situation do. Your college may have services that can help you. If there is a counseling center, do take advantage of what they offer. There may also be a department that serves students with special needs. Having ADD qualifies. You may need some support to manage the multiple demands of higher education until you get the hang of it. My students with ADHD or ADD, for example, were often allowed to take longer on assignments or to take tests in a quieter setting. If there are no formal services at your school, seek out your advisor or a professor you like. Those office hours aren’t just for help with classes.
I wish you well.