First Year Expectations vs. REALITY

College is frightening, but at the same time filled with opportunities for self-discovery, renewal, and new friends. As a senior in high school, I found that former students were always coming back with their experiences as a college freshman, so naturally I had a lot of expectations for how I wanted my freshman experience to look. But the reality is, every college experience is unique. As cliché as it sounds, college really is what you make of it! With the first semester of college nearing its end, I took some time to reflect on the differences between my expectations of college as a senior in high school and the reality that became my first semester college experience. 

Expectation: Orientation will be a blast!

Reality: O-week is super hectic and tiring, and you’re not the only one who’s feeling awkward.

With all the planned activities and social events, college makes orientation sound like so much fun. Unfortunately, starting each day off with an “ice breaker”  isn’t exactly what I signed up for. Though I did meet a ton of amazing people, at the end of the day, I felt physically exhausted by the forced socialization and just wished I was given time to orient myself.

Expectation: College will be super clique-y, so you have to instantly find a group of friends.

Reality: Cliques are an urban myth–everyone is super friendly and eager to build new friendships. 

The truth is that everyone is just as nervous as you are about making new friends. Beginning a key milestone in your life alone, without the comfort of your established friend group, is, no doubt, daunting. But that makes the freshman experience even more special–it is truly a time for discovery and an opportunity for a new beginning, so put yourself out there because the stakes are very, very low. 

Expectation: The workload will be unbearable.

Reality: You will have more time and freedom to manage the 23,409 assignments due while still finding time to have a social life and keep in touch with high school friends and family. 

Okay, fine. Maybe for seven days a week, once a month, you’ll be married to the library. But after an exhausting midterms week in the library contemplating whether your diploma is worth it, you’ll ultimately find yourself thinking, “Yeah, it’s worth it.” Sure, the workload will be more challenging than before, but don’t forget that you only have a few classes a day yet a ton of time. You’ll have more freedom to distribute your work throughout the day, so as long as you manage your time well and use your fresh sense of independence wisely, trust me, you’ll be surprised how much free time you have on the weekends. 

Expectation: You will live off of ramen noodles. 

Reality: You will be a well-nourished baby and possibly even gain the freshman fifteen. 

Colby’s unlimited meal swipes makes this almost impossible. Unless you find pride in living up to the “broke college student” image, then I guarantee that you will be so glad to live five minutes away from a dining hall. Unfortunately, junk food and desserts are also so much more accessible than before. Back home, my parents rarely bought snacks; on campus, I can have ice cream with every meal if I wanted, with the only constraint being my will power. 

Expectation: Sleeping in two hours later for classes makes college significantly better than high school.

Reality: Waking up for that 9 AM may be harder than you think. 

Going into college, the one thing I looked forward to the most was to finally being able to sleep in even on weekdays. However, the second week of classes made me soon realized 9ams are a misconception that you’ll be well-rested for class–they merely made it harder for me to believe I was able to wake up at 6am everyday in time to catch the bus for four years, when I could barely get up at 8:50am to make it in time for lecture...yikes. 

Though college wasn’t quite how I imagined it to be, I’m thankful for everyone and everything that came to shape my first semester college experience. Even though midterms and finals will shave off two years of my life, I’m confident that college will only get better. Cheers to the next three and a half years!