You did it! You managed to graduate from high school and now you’re a freshman at the college of your dreams. Four years of high school has taught you everything you need to know, you’re fully prepared and nothing will stand in your way now.
Except… you’re going to quickly learn that college is a little different than high school, and it’s going to take you a while to figure out what the heck is going on. Luckily, there’s a whole class of freshmen just like you who are equally confused, concerned, exhausted, and excited.
No Grade For Attendance = No Attendance
Someone on Twitter captioned this photo as what you look like when your roommate asks “don’t you have a class right now?” and you can see it, right?
While in high school you may have been all about that perfect attendance score, you’ll quickly learn that even good students skip classes in college. Sometimes you skip a class to catch up in another class, or sometimes you’re just not feeling like going and you know the professor will post lecture notes later, so why bother?
An Epidemic Across The Country
There will never be enough parking on a college campus. Never. In high school, you could blissfully role up to the student parking lot and you were never concerned about whether or not there would be a spot, but in college, it’s a fight to the death.
If you manage to find a spot on campus, you’re not leaving it until you absolutely have to. Even if you have an 8-hour break between classes, you’re not going to risk giving up your spot. Quite frankly, “I couldn’t find parking” should be an acceptable excuse for skipping class.
You Better Learn To Study
“Choose the most correct answer” is the devil’s handiwork, and that’s who designs multiple-choice exams in college, not your professors.
The high school curriculum is designed for students to succeed, for the most part, but in college, you’re on your own. Scantron absolutely does not care if you get 10% or 90% on your Introduction to Psychology multiple choice midterm. Hope you paid attention in your lectures because you know that topic your professor told you “definitely wouldn’t be on the midterm” will make an appearance.
Phone A Friend
There are going to be classes you take where the professors don’t post lecture notes or slides or any sort of materials afterward, or the prof is a really fast talker and it’s not physically possible for you to take notes fast enough.
Find a friend in that class during the first week, otherwise, you’ll spend every lecture looking like this bronze statue. If you have a friend in the class, you can compare notes afterward to make sure you both have everything you need.
Call Me By My Name
You’ll learn pretty quickly that college is a lot more casual than high school. Sure, you’ll still get professors who are like “I earned a PhD please refer to me as Dr.” which is valid on their part, but most of the time your profs won’t care about things like that.
You could spend 30 minutes writing a perfectly crafted email to your English Lit professor and you’ll get a response back that is a one-line answer and has two typos. That’s just how it is.
You’re Always On Rainbow Road
In high school, there’s a slow build-up to exam time. Teachers ease you into it, everyone knows it’s coming and you know what’s expected of you. In college, it’s a different story.
Everything is going well at the beginning of the semester, you think you’re ready for finals but then suddenly you’re back from Thanksgiving and you have 17 research papers, 24 group assignments, and 19 labs to do in the span of a couple of weeks.
Learning To Cram
High school taught you “how to teach myself 3 chapters of material the night before the test” but college teaches you that you can push that to at least 5 chapters if you don’t sleep at all.
Finals week in college will have people spending 24 hours straight in the library, trying to learn everything that’s on the exam review, even though you’re 99% sure that the professor never taught #9, or maybe that was the lecture you skipped because you were hungover…
Your Priorities Will Probably Change
You may have been the Student Council President, as well as on the varsity volleyball team, the debate team, vocal club, and the science club, but that’s probably going to change in college.
There are tons of clubs and organizations for you to get involved in, but don’t commit to too much too soon in your freshman year or you’re going to burn out real fast. Make sure you still have time to actually get all your assignments done, even if that’s not as exciting.
Learn To Be Resourceful
If you choose to go to college out of town or out of state, you’re going have to learn to fend for yourself, and sometimes that’s not going to go well. Even if you think you are, you’re probably not ready to live on your own, but you’ll learn quickly.
You’ll have to learn to be resourceful, like this student who heats their food up with a hairdryer because they don’t have access to a microwave.
Every Man For Himself
If you open a syllabus to see the words “Group Collaboration” or “Group Assignments,” abort mission immediately. Drop the class as fast as you can. If you think group projects were bad in high school you’ve got another thing coming.
You’re going to end up spending half the time just trying to finding a time to meet up, and even when you do pick a time, someone will show up late, someone will go to the wrong location, and one group member will just never show up and never contribute.
No One Is A Morning Person In College
“The 4 stages of a morning lecture.” Yes, you managed to drag your butt out of bed every morning for school at 8 am, but something changes when you get to college. 8 am just feels so much earlier than it did before.
Don’t pick a morning lecture unless you absolutely have to, and if it’s a required course but it’s only offered at 9 am on Monday mornings, consider switching majors — it’ll be less painful.
You’re also going to get to college and realize that a lot of what you learned in high school doesn’t apply to your degree whatsoever. You took AP Bio in your junior year, but now you’re in a business program and you absolutely do not need to know about the mitochondria.
Even worse, you might be majoring in Biology and the only thing you can remember is that the mitochondria is the powerhouse of the cell. It’s one or the other.
Knowledge Should Be Free!
In high school, your textbooks are provided to you at little to no cost, but the goal of college is to absolutely bankrupt you, which is why they can charge $200 for a textbook that you will only open once. There are even courses that won’t let you write an exam until you prove that you’ve bought the textbook.
Pro tip: buy used textbooks. Even if your syllabus says you need the 20th edition, you can find the 19th edition for half the price and there will be basically no difference between the two.
Aim Low To Avoid Disappointment
When your high school teachers tell you to expect lower grades when you get to college, they’re not kidding. Set realistic expectations for yourself! You have to get used to different methods of studying, and to doing a lot more work at home vs. in a classroom.
You also will learn to pick your battles. There will be times when you have two, three, four or more papers or assignments due in one week and you might just pick to work a little harder on the one that’s worth 25% vs. the one that’s worth 5%.
This Is What Dreams Aren’t Made Of
We’re just going to break it to you now before you get your hopes up… You’re probably not going to get your dream job straight after graduation. In fact, we’re 99% sure you aren’t.
You might go back to working retail for a few months — or more than a few months — or maybe you take that MA in Engineering down to Olive Garden and bartend for a little while! Keep your expectations realistic folks.
By the time you get to third or fourth year, you’ll be taking classes that supposedly build on things you learned in the previous years, but sometimes you won’t have any clue what’s going on. Make sure you ask questions, even if it seems scary or intimidating because you don’t want your prof to think you’re dumb.
The other option is to never understand what’s happening and then by the time the final rolls around, you won’t even know what you don’t know and it’ll just be chaos.
Remember in high school when you would get up at 6 AM every day to make sure that your hair and makeup were done perfectly, and that you had the perfect outfit? That won’t last long once you’re in college.
There are definitely people who still do this, but they’re the minority. The majority of us are just out here trying to make sure we wear a different outfit to our Tuesday morning lecture than we did last Tuesday so everyone knows you have more than one set of clothing.
As a broke college student, you’re going to have to learn to get inventive and take advantage of the system a little bit. You just paid $1000 for your first-semester textbooks — you fill up that jug of milk! Go crazy and fill up two.
Pro-tip for starving students? Even if you’re not in the program, go to all of those “Meet and Greet with the Professors of ____ Faculty” because there’s always free food.
No One Is Paying Attention To You
Say it with me: no one cares what you do in college. Coming out of high school, you’ll feel like you’re going to be judged for what you wear or what you do, but people really don’t care.
You could literally wear a clown suit through the library. Half the people in there wouldn’t even notice, the other half would notice for approximately 1.6 seconds, think ” hmm interesting choice” and go back to what they were doing.
It’s The Little Things In Life
One upside to college is that it’ll teach you to appreciate the finer things in life. Phrases like “student discount” or “free food” bring you more joy than you thought possible.
The relief you feel when your debit card doesn’t get declined at Starbucks? Indescribable. Getting an email from your prof saying class is canceled just as you were about to consider maybe getting out of bed? Life-changing. College is great! You’re going to love it.