College Expectations vs Reality: What I Learned from My First Year of College

As a high school student, I could not even begin to comprehend what life in college would be like. I did not have older siblings or friends in college who I could visit, so setting foot on campus in the fall was a unique experience. Even though my university, UMass Amherst, had a summer New Student Orientation (NSO), I still had no idea what my life would be like in college. I did have a few expectations based off of stories from my parents and my friends’ older siblings, but those expectations were not entirely the reality. This was not always necessary a bad thing, but it was a major change.

 

College schedules would be like high school schedules...

One of my earliest expectations was that in college was that there would be a strict schedule of classes. I thought I would have to take eight o’clock classes every day - as if that was the norm. Turns out, you have a great deal of flexibility in your schedule. For some classes, you even have options of times. Or you could choose a class based on a professor. In high school, we were assigned a teacher and a class period and that was final. Now, I could have a say in when I wanted the class and who was teaching it. And best of all? I did not have to take an eight o’clock class for my first two semesters of college. I didn’t even have classes on Fridays during my first semester!

 

Professors would be harsher than in high school...

Throughout high school, teachers would portray college professors as strict and unyielding. Upon starting my college classes, I was shocked at how kind and helpful college professors were. I have had many professors who would encourage student success, as well as provide resources in helping students succeed in their course - especially if they are struggling.

 

I would have a hard time making friends...

 

The number of students attending my large public university was numerous times larger than my tiny high school (more than 20,000 versus less than 700)! Plus, many of the people I knew from high school I had known from as far back as preschool. I would be entering a school - and a very large school at that - knowing no one. I worried that college would be as clique-y as high school (along with the same toxic drama). The friends I have made in college have been some of the kindest, funniest, and unproblematic people I have ever met. While you may be closer with some people than others, there’s no real cliques. While I share many values with my friends, we all have a diverse range of interests.

 

College food would taste awful...

Growing up, the one thing I heard about college was food horror stories. My parents lamented about how they would survive on cheap convenience store food. Food at the dining halls was questionable. They gushed about how excited they would get when their parents came to visit so that they could be taken out to a restaurant and eat “real” food. Luckily, I did not run into this problem - most likely because I attended the college with #1 dining! UMass Amherst has a wide range of cuisines suited for any taste buds. In fact, when my family comes to visit, I am not begging to be taken out to eat, but instead taking them to the dining halls so they can get a taste of #1 college dining.

 

I would hate having classes in a big lecture hall...

Big school equals enormous lecture halls. I have been in lectures with more than 300 people. Before entering college, I assumed I would despise attending such huge classes. I was used to having class sizes of no more than twenty-five students. From what I imagined, large lectures would be extremely overwhelming. While my first lecture was rather nerve-wrecking, after two or three, I adjusted. Now, I do not mind lectures at all - I even enjoy them!

 

The transition from high school to college would be difficult...

I am not going to lie - it was not easy. And the transition experience varies from person to person. But transitioning from high school to college was not as difficult as I pictured. It was hard at first, but I quickly adapted and learned to absolutely love college!

 

Every person has their own unique college experience. Your opinions may differ from mine. In my opinion, college has been far better than high school. You get to meet students similar to you, attend classes on subjects you are passionate about, and have a much more flexible, independent schedule. I have learned so much during my first year of college - and I am excited to return this coming fall!

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