If there’s one thing I’ve learned about my overall experience during my first year of college, it’s that I shouldn’t have set my expectations so high. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve had a pretty great time so far at the University of Iowa. But it’s hard to know how any experience is going to play out, especially if it’s a major change like going to a university for the first time. With that being said, here are some of the major expectations I had coming into college and how they actually turned out.
EXPECTATION: I love the dining halls! I definitely won’t get tired of the food here
REALITY: *avoids the dining hall as much as possible by the end of first semester*
The dining halls may seem to have a wide variety of options to choose from, but trust me, you’re going to find that there’s maybe a total of three meals you like. Then once you’ve eaten those enough, you WILL get tired of them. I was a huge fan of the burritos at Burge first semester, and since I loved them so much, I’d get them just about every night of the week. Except now, I can no longer stand the taste of the chicken they use in them (no matter how tasty it may be).
For some reason, it doesn’t feel like there are nearly enough options anymore and I’ll actually end up spending money on food some nights just to avoid eating in the dining hall. Flex meals have become a really great alternative to eating in Burge or Hillcrest, and so far I’ve used up about twice the amount of flex meals I used last semester in an attempt to eat a wider variety of food.
EXPECTATION: All-nighters totally won’t suck
REALITY: They totally do
I learned this the hard way earlier this week, actually. I pulled my first all-nighter ever on a 5-7 page rough draft of a research paper for my Interpretation of Literature class and I would never in a million years recommend this to anyone. In high school, I anticipated the idea that I’d probably end up going through with an all-nighter at least once in my first year of college and now that I’ve actually done it, I will never do it again. Going without sleep for over 36 hours is not something I should’ve looked forward to. I’m a HUGE procrastinator so of course I saw this coming, but it definitely taught me a lesson to never procrastinate that hard again. I was absolutely miserable and it completely screwed with my body/mind’s sense of time and ability to function.
EXPECTATION: Going out every single night of the weekend because #freedom
REALITY: Staying in at least 1 night of the weekend because #responsibilities
This one is pretty self-explanatory, but I had such high expectations for my social life when I really should’ve set the bar much lower. Sure, on occasion I’ll go out with friends Thursday-Saturday night, but more often than not, you’ll find me just chilling in my room on the weekends doing homework or just relaxing. Plus, I guarantee at some point you’ll need to make yourself stay in one weekend night to study for that Monday exam.
EXPECTATION: Not studying for an exam and miraculously acing it
REALITY: *Not studying for an exam then getting a D*
Usually, for the first exam of a course, I’ll go without studying just to see how I’ll do solely based on the information I’ve already absorbed from lecture/discussion/etc. However, this method has yet to work out positively for me. I’ve noticed that we cover a lot more information in one exam in college than one exam in high school, so it’s going to take more than what you can just remember off the top of your head. It’s pretty funny that I know this but have yet to actually practice what I preach.
EXPECTATION: All my friends from high school will totally hang out with me all the time
REALITY: *only sees high school friends once a month*
If you’re going to the same college as at least a couple of your friends from high school and expect to keep in close touch with them, you’re setting yourself up for quite a bit of disappointment down the road. I have some of my best friends living on campus with me at Iowa, and I see them maybe once every month or so.
Initially, this made me really upset and seriously question those relationships, but what I needed to understand was that we all have completely different lives now, and that’s the reason aren’t talking as much as we used to.
In high school, you and your friends’ academic schedules are all timed identically with one another and all of your friends are (most likely) located within the same building. Whereas in college, it’s extremely difficult to coordinate times to see friends during the day since everyone’s class schedules vary so much.
However, when you do see them, it usually results in a pretty great reunion where you catch up on anything and everything!
EXPECTATION: *BONGO: Red Route arriving in 2 minutes*
REALITY: *2 minutes later: Cambus has already been to your stop and is disappearing in the distance*
Never trust the Cambus app, Bongo, to always be on time because it will occasionally betray you. I always try to be at a stop around 5 minutes before it arrives just in case cause:
EXPECTATION: I’ll join and attend 10 clubs and love them all!
REALITY: *Never goes to 8/10 meetings but still gets emails twice a week*
Ah, there’s nothing like the rush of ambition you feel during your first few weeks on campus. “I can do anything!” “Sign me up!” “I have so much free time!” are all thoughts you have during the activities and student organizations fair at the beginning of the year. Except, in reality, you have literally no time for anything besides maybe two of the clubs on campus. But whatever, there’s always next year!
EXPECTATION: I’ll only take the elevator up to my room, like, once a day
REALITY: *hasn’t used the stairs in 6 weeks*
Now, my room is at least located on the second floor of my hall, so I always willingly choose to take the stairs up there because it really isn’t that much of a climb. However, I know there are some residence halls on campus with well over twice the number of floors my dorm has so I get that the struggle can be real. On my busiest days, I find myself walking about 5 miles around campus so I completely understand the urge to take the elevator every chance you get.
EXPECTATION: It’s going to be so great to get out of the house and away from my annoying parents
REALITY: *texts them daily and loves taking advantage of any opportunity to come home*
I remember feeling so ready to get to college by the end of my senior year of high school. I so badly wanted to feel independence like never before and couldn’t wait to experience what it was like to be totally free from all parental control. I’m pretty sure this feeling lasted about three days. Yes, the freedom is amazing, but it’s not always all it’s cracked up to be. I remember FaceTiming with my mom at least once a week for the first month I was at school and feeling surprised that I was actually super excited to come home for the first time.
EXPECTATION: Any free time in my schedule will be spent studying!
REALITY: *takes naps during any and/or all free time*
I remember planning my schedule first semester during orientation thinking, “wow, I’m going to have so much free time to do homework in between my classes!”. Although that’s what I could have been spending my time doing, it definitely wasn’t what I ended up doing at all on most days.
If I ever have more than an hour in between classes, you know I’m going back to bed for a little bit. I’m an avid napper and it’s honestly the only thing (besides caffeine) that gets me through my day anymore now that I’m taking primarily morning classes.
EXPECTATION: I’m never going to skip class because I’m here to learn!
REALITY: *Skips class at least once a month*
I’ve noticed that for most classes, attendance policy usually allows each student 3 unexplained absences. Policies vary by class, but this is what’s typically been the case for me and trust me, I’ve definitely taken advantage of it.
I try my absolute best to attend every class I can in the first half of the semester so that I can save those three free absences for when I need them most. I was always that student who showed up to school even while being painfully ill just because I hated missing class. However, that all went out the door when I learned I could basically have a few free passes. This especially comes in handy for morning classes when you’ve accidentally slept in, are actually super sick, or you’re honestly just not feeling it.
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Sometimes, the first day of school is not at all what it's cracked up to be.
You spend hours envisioning how perfectly the day will go, and then when you actually live it, you experience just about every road bump possible.
Take a look at these eight expectation vs. reality scenarios that may hit way too close to home.
First Day Outfit
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Expectation: You spent hours picking out the perfect outfit at the mall, and you finally found "the one." You strut through your school doors on the first day, and all eyes are on you. You are flawless.
Reality: You spent hours trying to find the perfect outfit, and you settle for something in your closet because you didn't see anything worth buying at the mall. You feel semi-confident walking through the hallways, until…you realize you spilled your morning tea all over your white skirt.Nightmare central. 😱
Arriving to School
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Expectation: You studied all summer long so you could finally get your driver's permit! You pull up to school in your brand new Mini Cooper, and honestly, you feel like you're on Cloud 9.
Reality: You didn't end up getting your permit, and your mom offers to drive you and the rest of your siblings to your first day of school. In the family mini van.
Finding Your First Class
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Expectation: You printed out your school's map a week before classes and went down to the campus to find them. You walk in on the first day and confidently find your first class minutes before the school bell rings. So prepared, as always.
Reality: You didn't have time to map out your classes, and when the first school bell rings, you're still at your locker trying to figure out your combination. Your stress level is skyrocketing and you haven't even started your day. Ughh.
Having a Class With Your Bestie
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Expectation: You and your bestie are absolutely ecstatic when you find out that you have advanced English together. You walk into class arm in arm and plop down into seats right next to each other. Your teacher announces that you two are partners for all in-class activities. Best. Day. Ever.
Reality: You and your bestie walk into class grinning ear to ear. You think nothing can get you down, until, your teacher announces that there are assigned seats. You and your partner-in-crime are placed at complete opposite ends of the room. At least you can still do hw assignments together.
Seeing Your Crush for the First Time
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Expectation: You've been waiting to see your crush all summer long, and finally the moment has arrived. You spot him in the school courtyard, you make eye contact as he runs his hands through his hair. He comes up to you and asks you what you're doing Friday night. Is this real life?!
Reality: You practically run to school, so excited to see the hottie you've been thinking of all summer long. You spot him in the school courtyard, but wait. He's with another girl? Apparently, he's now dating an incoming freshman. This can't be happening.
Running Into an Enemy
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Expectation: You walk through the hallway on the first day of school, and in your heart you believe that the girl who bullied you all last year will have finally realized you don't have to be enemies. You spot her near the lockers, she comes up to you shakes your hand and asks to start over. Dream come true.
Reality: You walk through the hallway, see your enemy and, what do you know, she cracks a joke about your "dorky" outfit. Some things never change, just gotta shake it off.
Your Lunch Break
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Expectation: You wake up the first day of class and you prep a full nutritious lunch in your new lunch box. You're off to a good start.
Reality: You don't know how it's possible, but your alarm clock mysteriously stopped working while you were sleeping and you totally woke up late. No time to make breakfast or prep lunch. You're eating a measly granola bar you found stuffed in your mom's purse.
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Expectation: It's the first day of school, so obvi no teachers assign any homework. They want you to take it easy on your first day back! All you do all day is sign syllabuses, which means hitting the mall with your best girls after school and talking about your perfect classes and teachers. Life couldn't get any better.
Reality: Your teachers might be out to get you. You have three homework assignments and a two page essay about what you want to learn this year. You spend your night in the local library with your brand spanking new textbooks.
Need help managing your expectations about school and preparing yourself for the best day possible? You'll have to test out THESE seven simple rules for having an easier first day of school.