Making that scary, exciting move to college

Three Owen seniors talk about their next big steps, on campus

Fred McCormick

There are few more significant transitions in life than the one that takes place between high school and college. In the span of one move-in weekend, a carefree childhood is traded for the complications of a largely unknown world, with all the mental and emotional challenges that higher education brings.

Like millions of their counterparts around the country, many of Owen High's most recent settled into their dorms on Aug. 18. Those move-in day experiences and first impressions of college life are as diverse as the new freshmen themselves.

The summer between Lindsey Slone's graduation and her first fall at UNC Asheville was not unlike her past summers - she worked.

"I have been working since my sophomore year, year-round," the freshman, who moved into the college's Mills Hall, said.

While Slone was making money to buy books and furnishings for her dorm, her mind was racing as she considered what to expect in college.

"I had all of the emotions, like a typical college freshman," she said. "Everyone said I'd feel every emotion before I left, but I didn't really think I would. But the closer I got to moving in, the more nervous I got about breaking out of my shell."

Slone plans to major in computer science and mass communications at UNCA, the same college her father Daron attended. She applied to Appalachian State University and was accepted there too.

"When I found out I could go to (UNC) Asheville, the whole plan changed," she said. "I decided I wanted to follow my dad's footsteps because he's always been the one pushing me, so I had a change of heart."

After her first few days on campus Slone is glad she reconsidered.

"Since we moved in on a Friday we didn't have class until the following Monday," she said. "That gave me a chance to get to know my roommate a little better, make a couple of friends around campus and kind of come out of my shell before I had to. I love it here."

Even though she's a short drive from home, Slone has felt homesick at times, she said. But her classes and new job at Sherrill Center on campus help keep her mind occupied.

"I have had some points in time during the day where I think 'is this really for me?,'" she said. "But the more I keep my mind off of home, it keeps me from being homesick. My parents started missing me before I left."

Chance Simpson has considerably farther away. He may miss the Swannanoa Valley, but he definitely won't miss some of his closest childhood friends - former Owen basketball teammates Mathew Brown and Kobe Bartlett. The trio of Western Carolina University freshmen arrived in Cullowhee Aug. 18 much like a caravan, with families in tow.

"Me and Kobe are roommates, and Mathew is in the same suite," said Simpson, who's majoring in construction management.

In some way the first few days of college have been like their high school days, when the trio ultimately decided they would attend WCU. "We still hang out together all the time," Simpson said.

Starting college with a couple of your best friends makes the transition easier, according to Simpson. The key to academic success will be how they manage their free time, which is now more abundant, Bartlett added.

"There is a lot of free time here, and there's a lot of other stuff to do on campus," he said. "You have to make sure you're on top of your work and doing everything you're supposed to before you're out doing other stuff."

The opportunities to socialize appear limitless, Simpson and Bartlett agree. But the biggest appeal of going away to college is the freedom.

"It's just nice to be able to do things on our own and be responsible for ourselves," Simpson said.

Last year around this time Brian Bartlett would've been found hanging out with Simpson, Brown and Kobe Bartlett. Now, he's in college more than an hour away from his former basketball teammates - and much closer to home.

"My house is about a mile or two from the Montreat gate," said Brian Bartlett, a two-time Owen athlete of the year who will play baseball at Montreat College this year. "So the move was pretty easy."

As other freshmen struggled to find their way around the Montreat campus, Brian simply re-familiarized himself with a place he came to know well as a child.

"When my brother (Dustin, who played baseball for Montreat College 2006-10) came here, I watched him play baseball here. I've always wanted to go to school here," he said. "When he was dating his wife back before they were married - this is funny - he used to feel bad for me because I'd be home alone and he'd take me with them on their little dates around the campus. So I've been to the Belk Campus Center and everything."

Now Brian is poised to be the next Bartlett to play at Montreat (his father Rick played for then Montreat-Anderson College in 1982). He can't wait for the season to start.

"I've already got like a 30-page packet for pitchers I've been going over, and we've got a scrimmage next week," he said. "I'm so ready to get started."

Brian, like his brother did, is majoring in elementary education because he wants a career that allows him to help people.

Making new friends hasn't been a problem for the former Owen standout who batted over .500 last season. He met the rest of the members of the Cavaliers his first day on campus.

"We all took a hike up to the top of Lookout (Mountain) as a team," he said. "That was a lot of fun."

Brian's proximity to his Black Mountain home hasn't stifled the feeling of independence he's felt since his first night on campus.

"I have a lot more freedom," he said. "When I was at home, I would ask my mom and dad when I wanted to go do anything, and now I can come and go when I want. I just have to make sure to be smart about the things I do and decisions I make."