Every student inevitably carries expectations and preconceived notions about college with them when they first arrive. Our perception of college is shaped by many things like older siblings, friends, popculture, or our parents. But, what should you really be expecting to experience on a daily basis during your freshman year? We’ve compiled some thoughts and (possibly more) realistic expectations to consider when you first arrive on campus. This being part 2 of this mini-series, be sure to read Part 1.
Classes Are The Same But Different
You will find that your college classes are very different from your high school ones in some ways, but you will also find that they can be very similar. Let’s look at some differences and similarities.
Expect Nothing Two Classes To Be The Same
College classes can be very unpredictable. They can be fast paced or boringly slow. They can be extremely hard or extremely easy. No two classes will be the same, so expect to know very little about the class when sitting down for the first lecture of the semester. The best way to get the inside scoop on a particular class is to talk with students who have completed it in previous semesters. Even then, be prepared for anything. You might have to step up your game or change the way you work to succeed in a particular class. In high school, you may have been able to apply basically the same study and class skills to every class and be successful. This may not be the case in college!
Expect To Be Bored At Times
Even though college, including the classes, can be very exciting at times, some things about ‘school’ never change. You may just find yourself bored at your desk (hard to imagine, right?). The bright sunshine and colorful leaves out the window will still capture your attention greater than the invigorating, 10 year old PowerPoint presentation currently being read in monotone slide by slide… don’t get me started on professors who still use overhead projectors (if you even know what that is anymore). All of this will happen, and it will be OK. Just refocus, plan a time in your head later in the day to take a nice walk outside or setup your hammock, and ignore that glorious window for now in order to make it through your lecture. Lastly, don’t get mad at yourself for being bored; that only distracts you further! Accept if for what it is, and try to push through to still be successful in the class. You will thank yourself come final exam time.
Expect This ONE BIG DIFFERENCE: The Professor Variable
If there is one thing I can say about succeeding in your classes as well as a difference from high school classes, it is that your professor can make or break your class. Your professor can make your life awesome or miserable in many ways. They can be a great or awful lecturer. The can be generous or stingy with points on graded assignments. They can be loose or extremely particular about formatting on assignments. They can assign a lot of small grades throughout the course or just one massive group project for the whole semester (I still have recurring nightmares of this scenario)! WHICH PROFESSOR YOU CHOOSE MAKES A BIG DIFFERENCE. Often times, in your junior and senior level classes, you don’t have a choice of professor; you are stuck with whomever is gifted to you. But, in your classes as a frosh or sophomore, you will likely have many options. Talk with students who are older than you and look on professor rating sites. Be prepared when it comes time to register for classes, and try to get the professor that YOU WANT!
… later you find yourself at the library, student center, and the athletic dorm?? …you get the picture.
College Camp or College Life?
You are in a new environment. New campus, new room, new roommate, new dining table, new… EVERYTHING! It will take some getting used to. Expect to be homesick. Change is challenging sometimes. Homesickness is very, very common to most every college freshman. Don’t ignore the feeling; but instead, live in the feeling and acknowledge it. Tell yourself, ‘this is normal’, and then tell yourself, ‘this too shall pass’. Here are somethings to expect that can help you be prepared when this feeling arrives.
Expect To Feel Like A Camper
Have you ever been to a summer camp? All new faces, new bed, new dining table, new schedule, new… EVERYTHING! Sound familiar? College, at first, can feel a lot like camp. This is a good thing for a while until you suddenly feel like you’ve been at camp for too long. But, this camp doesn’t end! This is where the homesickness sets in. Recognize the ‘camp’ feeling upfront and begin to buffer your mind with the thought that this isn’t camp and this is instead your new life. Just being able to think about this slowly will help reduce the shock (and ultimately homesickness) of staying at college all year long.
Expect To Feel Like An Outsider Until You Don’t
College campuses often have a great vibe to them. There is art, science, and philosophy colliding all over campus. People are outside meeting with each other and enjoying shared spaces. And, as a large part of the vibe, college campuses are a big community of people that all have one thing in common… this particular college is ‘home’. Early in your freshman year, your college may not feel like home to you because it is so new and different. Unfortunately, the same ‘home’ feeling that often connects students can be alienating to those that do not quite share that feeling yet. But, don’t fret! One day, you will be walking into your dorm building for the 356th time or you will be making your way across campus, and you will suddenly feel ‘home’. This is truly a great feeling. So, expect to feel like an outsider for a while… until you don’t!
BONUS – Invest In Some Walking Shoes
A university may be the epitome of cutting edge and advanced theory, but you will find certain things about college are as old as time itself. One thing in particular… getting things done around campus. Expect to be sent all over campus for just about everything. Say you need to get proof of attendance at the university for your parent’s health insurance… easy enough right? Wrong. Expect that operation to take ALL DAY. You will first go to the registrar’s office and stand in line for 1.5 hours. When you finally make it to the counter, you will be told you need a signature from your academic adviser. You walk to your adviser’s office; she is not available until 2 hours later. You wander around campus for 2 hours then show up to your adviser’s office. You wait an extra 30 minutes outside her door because she still isn’t there. When she arrives, you wait 30 more minutes for her to ‘get settled’. Then finally, she tells you that you need to fill out a form on the university website… later you find yourself at the library, student center, and the athletic dorm?? …you get the picture. I cannot tell you how many times this happened to me in college. You will be on campus tracking this down ALL DAY, so just expect it.