In theory, every college student has a “breakout moment.” The time in a person’s college journey where they truly realize that they’ve arrived on campus is a defining point in a student’s life. Whether it’s a late night swamped with schoolwork, that first walk of shame, joining a Greek organization or another unique life moment, every student comes to a point where they recognize the reality of college life.
For some students, it happens right away during their freshman year, right when they arrive at their university. Caroline Carver, a student at Lander University in Greenwood, S. C., had her breakout moment in the summer when she first moved on campus. For her, it was living on her own and realizing she’s more independent than ever as a college student.
“I don’t have to be told I can and can’t do [things]. I got my own cat...if I want cake at 2 a.m. I can go get it,” Carver said.
The moment was less of a shock for Carver than some other students, as she goes to school very close to her home. The breakout moment tends to hit some students more harshly, as they go through major changes in their lives while being expected to keep their grades up.
“For me it was probably when I was hanging out in my best friend’s apartment doing an essay. It just kinda hit me hard that this is my life and I’m on my own, I’m making my own decisions away from home...I had a really hard time adjusting to being on my own at first,” one former student at UNCP said.
This student deals with depression and takes medication for it, but had to adjust to her school’s psychiatry department, which she said often cancelled appointments because it was understaffed. The psychiatrist was only in the office for a few days out of the week, which made it difficult for her to set up dates and get her medicine.
The feeling of being away from home and left to take care of oneself can be overwhelming, but she continues to see the positive side of it.
“It was a very free feeling knowing that I can do with my life what I want,” she said.
For others, like UNCP student Kara Stafford, the jitters from going to class are the time when the breakout moment really hits home.
“For me, it was actually when I started my first day of classes. I was really anxious and nervous because it was so different from high school,” Stafford said.
Stafford eventually became more comfortable in her college environment with the help of a close friend who helped her branch out and meet more people over time.
Other social individuals like junior Ariana Lugo and former UNCP student Taylor Marion had their breakout moments at parties.
“Like three days after move-in date I was at a kickback and realized I had to be home before my mom started calling me,” Marion said. “I called her right away telling her I was leaving my friend’s place and it hit me.”
College socialites like Marion and Lugo recognize how hard it can be to find a balance between the things they want and the things they need.
“It’s been very stressful trying to prioritize between schoolwork and having a social life. But at the end of the day I’m still pushing through getting ready to graduate next year,” Lugo said.
Lugo’s breakout moment came at a pool party, the last one of her freshman year. Surrounded by all her closest friends, she realized that she couldn’t wait to come back after the Summer.
Junior Taylie Bray had her moment this year, but shares something with Lugo that’s essential to a breakout moment for a college student.
“I was just hanging out with my roommates. They’re a bunch of girls who are all really different from me, but college brought us all together and that feels good. My moment was with them. That’s when I felt like college was right for me, surrounded by a bunch of different types of people that I’ve genuinely come to love,” Bray said.
Bray’s moment is emblematic of what the breakout moment is supposed to do for a college student. Whether that moment is a good, bad, fun, boring or scary experience for the student, it propels them to a newfound appreciation of college; a place where many different people come together and share moments like these.