4 Things To Expect When You’re Expecting To Go To College

I didn’t have any reasonable expectations for what college would be like. My family never really shared their college stories with me, so I had to turn to movies. Of course, every college movie seems to be about fraternity brothers pulling pranks on crusty old deans, which is about as far from reality as you can get. I can’t even tell you what the dean of my college looks like.

My experience of college is different from the huge parties and endless fun seen in the media. To me, junior college essentially felt like high school without bells and with bigger classes. University, on the other hand, is very different from high school and junior college. As I enter my senior year of college, I feel like I have a good sense of the college experience. If you’re going off to college, here’s what you should know.

  • Difficulty

University is more challenging than high school for a few reasons. For me, the biggest difficulty was shifting to a faster class schedule. My high school had (by my estimate) 36 week long classes, while most universities operate on 10 or 18 week schedules. This means that you’ll have more reading and more tests in a shorter amount of time. One of my AP classes in high school went at the rate of a chapter a week and I thought this was dense; in college, my classes tend to move at the rate of two chapters a week!

Another thing to note is that there is less busywork in college, and this is a double edged sword. On one hand, you’ll have more time to do things that will actually matter, like study. On the other hand, you’ll need that time to study because this means that you won’t be able to inflate your grade with easy homework assignments. Your grade will most likely be decided by a few tests and papers, so you really can’t afford to bomb anything.

  • Social Experiences

Your chances for social experiences will vary depending on your school. However, you’ll generally encounter more diversity, even at a junior college. The people who go to your high school, for example, generally live in the same town as you. However, at junior college, you’ll encounter people from all over the county along with (depending on your school) a fair amount of international students. University is even more diverse. I’ve yet to encounter more than a handful of people at UC Davis who came from the same county as me. One of my best friends goes to UC Berkeley and his roommates are from South Korea and the United Kingdom.

In addition to diversity, there are also more social opportunities at university than at high school. While I haven’t had any first hand experience with this, fraternities and sororities are by their nature social organizations; I’ve heard about students who have transferred from junior college immediately joining Greek organizations simply because it’s the fastest way to meet people. However, even if your campus doesn’t have these groups, they will have a wide variety of social clubs. UC Davis has a club for people who watch TV!

  • Nobody Telling You What To Do

The most alarming thing about college for me is that there is less authority. You can skip class and there is nobody around to punish you. You can go to the grocery store at 1 in the morning if you want and nobody will stop you. You can procrastinate on studying and nobody will force you. Of course, these are awful ideas. You’ll need self-discipline to really succeed in college, because you don’t want to waste thousands of dollars loafing around.

  • No Old Friends

This is a bit of #HarshTruth, but it bears mentioning: you’ll probably lose a couple of friendsfrom high school when you go off to college. I’m speaking from experience here so trust me on this one. Unless you’re constantly texting them or interacting with them on social media, you’ll probably drift apart from them. However, you’ll inevitably make new friends anyway so it isn’t the end of the world.

I make college sound like gloom and doom, but it really isn’t. It’s a great, life-changing experience. Just because three of the four things I described are negative doesn’t mean that you should be afraid of it. Instead, look forward to it.

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John Kesler

John Kesler

John Kesler is a senior studying communication at the University of California, Davis. If he is on campus, he can be found in the basement offices of the newspaper or the radio station. At home, he enjoys listening to whatever music he can, reading whatever books he can, and taking walks wherever he can.
John Kesler

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