It’s normal to go into college with a clear set of expectations. The dorm food is going to be disappointing, your freshman roommates will either become your best friends (if you’re lucky) or your worst enemies (if you’re not), and there’s never going to be a dull moment.
Programs like Greek, Animal House, and American Pie all give the impression that college is a haven of parties, reckless behavior, and beer pong. On the other hand, there’s a pastoral portrayal of college that evokes images of well-dressed students studying on the campus lawn, spending weekday mornings alert in class, and weekends studying in the library.
But despite what society (or your parents) are telling you about what to expect in college; it’s time to take a deep breath, and toss those expectations straight out the window. Your academic counselor may give you tips on how to study effectively, multitask, and prioritize, but those tips won’t prepare you for your college experience.
Take it from a recent grad: College is never predictable. After rushing my way through, and trying to make the most of every experience thrown my way, here are some things I wish I had learned sooner rather than later:
College sucks sometimes.
College is lonely. It’s lonely in the beginning, when you’re struggling to make new friends and simultaneously keep in touch with your family and friends back home. It’s lonely in the middle, when you’re juggling 18 credit hours, a part time job, and a relationship you don’t have time for. It’s lonely at the end, when you realize that your four years (or however many) are over, and it’s time to say goodbye to the campus that has been your home, and to the people that made it such. Sometimes, it’s lonely just because life is lonely, and you’re confused, and stressed, and overwhelmed.
This is normal, and it’s okay to feel this way sometimes. Just remember that despite the homework, the lack of sleep, and the roommate drama, that life is sweet regardless.
If it’s easy, you’re doing it wrong.
College is tough because things are constantly changing. Classes get harder, relationships fall apart, and roommates rotate in and out of your life. In a lot of ways, college doesn’t let you get comfortable, and that’s a good thing! If you’re not taking challenging classes, spending your weekends at the library, or participating in at least one co-curricular, then you’re missing out on countless development opportunities, and you’re probably not making the most of this amazing experience.
Feel jealous that you have to go to meetings every Tuesday evening while your roommates play video games on the couch? Or that your friends sleep in on Saturday, while you attend social events for your honor society? Don’t. College offers countless opportunities to get involved and make an impact. Take advantage of them. You can always take a break when you graduate.
“Free time” doesn’t exist.
Unless you’ve purposely taken a light course load, there’s no such thing as “free time” in college. After homework, work, and social obligations, taking a break typically requires cutting into the few hours you’re allotted to sleep at night. Don’t let this get to you. Take a relaxing walk or run to a local café with a friend if you need a short study break. Down time is far and few between in college, but live fast and make the most of these few years.
These are some of the best years of your life for learning and discovery, but you may not realize it until they’re over.
Everyone says that college is going to bring the best years of your life. Despite the loneliness, the constant stress, and the lack of time to get everything done, college is a priceless experience. Once you leave, you won’t always get to participate in Tuesday night couch burnings, free dance groups, or Ultimate Frisbee. This is why you should take advantage of every single moment. Even small things, like a midnight walk with a close friend, a weekly 7-11 Slurpee trip, or tailgating at home football games can have a major impact if you just take the time to truly enjoy them.
Society, parents, friends, and academic counselors may all try to sway your expectations of college. The key thing to remember is that college is different for everyone, and it’s not always a big party. Higher education is at times overwhelming, stressful, and lonely, but it also caters to some remarkable experiences and memories, you may just not realize it yet.