Reagan graduate reflects on college life

Cara Patierno knows exactly what high school seniors awaiting college acceptance letters are going through.  A 2007 graduate of Reagan High School, the 18-year-old describes the application process as “pretty stressful,” and recalls the difficulty in applying for colleges while keeping up with her school assignments.
 
“You were trying to balance school work and trying to make sure every detail about you made you a well-rounded person or help you stand out from the other applicants,” she says. “Luckily, all the public schools in Texas have a common application.
 
Patierno applied to four schools and chose the University of Texas at Austin mainly for the more affordable in-state tuition.  Although anxious to be on her own, she was nervous about leaving the little bubble she felt secure in and wondered if she would remain in touch with her high school friends.  “Another fear was not succeeding.  I was afraid I would end up back home or not be happy with all my decisions,” she adds.
 
Making friends at college has not been a problem for Patierno, but learning to manage her time has proven difficult.  “Your hand is no longer being held through everything,” she says.  “If you don’t go to class the professor doesn’t care, but you better have a friend to get notes from.  There is not necessarily homework every day, but readings to be done.  And if don’t stay on top of that it will come around later to haunt you.”
 
Homesickness and spending money have also not been major hurdles for Patierno either.  She stays in touch with family members by phone or text messages and receives a $10 a week allowance from her mother.  “My mom and I agreed the first semester I would not have a job so I could get adjusted to the new lifestyle,” Patierno says. “Truthfully, you do not spend a lot of money, except on food and things of that sort.”
 
 When Patierno does visit her mom, she enjoys the home-cooked meals and the chance to do laundry without having to pay for it.  But, abiding by the old house rules is cumbersome after tasting freedom at college. “The first weekend I was home I was being asked all these questions and it was a little frustrating.  “Where are you going? Who are you going with? When are you coming back?’  While at college you don’t have to answer to anyone,” she says.
 
“I think I should be treated more like an adult, but my mom will still continue to question me,” she adds. “I need to understand that it is still my mom’s house and I need to live by the rules of the house when I am there.  But, there is the adjustment from not having to answer to anyone and then you do.”