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Embracing the Unconventional College Experience

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Stevens chapter.

The stereotypical college experience, often portrayed as a whirlwind of wild parties, endless socializing, and constant academic success, can lead many students to feel out of place when their reality doesn’t quite match this image. It’s so important to realize that not fitting into this traditional college mold is perfectly okay. In fact, embracing an unconventional path can lead to self-discovery and personal growth, helping you figure things out on your own terms.

The stereotypical college experience is a construct perpetuated by movies, social media, and society at large. The reality of college life is far more diverse and there’s no one-size-fits-all definition of what it should be. While some people may thrive in the typical college scene, others may find their own unique path to success and fulfillment.

As an incoming freshman, I was eager to have the “perfect” college experience. The idea was to have fun, make some mistakes, meet new people I could truly connect with, and never look back. My high school experience was complicated. I knew everyone in my grade, but was extremely protective of who I spent my time with. I felt like I could never find people I could relate to or truly resonate with. I decided college would be my time to become more social and see where I could fit in. After I graduated high school, I left everything behind and was eager to start over.

But I was in for a reality check because college started and all the expectations I had for myself went out the window. I slowly realized that the “perfect” college experience simply does not exist. I thought I needed to find a solid group of friends right away, always get good grades, land internships every summer, and basically leave my old self behind. It was too much change and pressure all at once. Trying to balance it all was so much harder than I expected. Everything seemed to be going wrong, but I couldn’t do anything about it. I was going home almost every weekend to try and find an escape. I just had to ride the wave, focus on my classes, and take care of myself. Good things will come.

Going from a 4.0 GPA in high school to bombing my first exam in college was eye-opening for me. I had to learn that my GPA is not the most important part of my college experience. It’s simply just a number, and as long as I am always trying my best and giving it my all, it doesn’t define me. Attending a rigorous tech university also didn’t help matters and made me compare myself to others who seemed to always do well in their classes, secure summer internships, and balance everything so well. What you don’t realize is that everyone is in the same boat and trying to learn, grow, and just figure out life. I was so worried and stressed out about not landing an internship during the summer after my sophomore year, but now I have two very successful jobs that I love. I could never have imagined the place I am in now, and all the stress and anxiety I had before about being successful seems inconsequential.

Now, as a junior, I have learned so much. I’ve become more confident in myself and in doing things on my own. I realized I don’t need to find this core group of friends. Sometimes floating between friendships for a while before you find your people is okay too. I don’t have to feel out of place or like I’m doing something wrong. It’s okay to only have a couple of friends, go home often on weekends for a mental reset, or spend time on your own doing things you love.

If you’re a college student who feels “out of place,” those feelings are completely normal. I felt that way pretty much every day until the spring of my sophomore year. You might feel like an outsider, especially when you see your peers embracing a lifestyle that doesn’t necessarily resonate with you. However, these emotions are part of your journey towards self-discovery. Embrace your uniqueness and be proud of the path you’re carving out for yourself. Remember that college is a time for self-discovery, and that can mean taking the road less traveled. I’m at a place now where I can be proud of my accomplishments and am focusing on my journey ahead.

College is a place where you can discover your passions, interests, and goals. Success is not confined to a specific formula, and you should define it on your own terms. Don’t compare yourself to others or measure your achievements solely against the stereotypical college experience. Success could mean academic excellence, personal growth, community involvement, or a combination of various factors. The key is to align your college experience with your individual aspirations.

You will find what is meant for you. Just keep going :)

Neeti Mistry

Stevens '25

Neeti is a junior at Stevens Institute of Technology pursuing software engineering. In her free time, she enjoys going to broadway shows, traveling, and photography. Neeti has been affiliated with Her Campus as a social media influencer and blogger for the last few years, and she's super excited to join the Stevens chapter!