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Back to School Expectations vs. Reality: College Edition

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Another summer has come and gone, and with the next academic year quickly approaching, we’re trying to figure out what this year of college will bring us. While we’re still fantasizing about finally achieving our summer bod or meeting our soulmate, we’ve compiled this list of expectations and (too real) realities for going back to school—only this time, we’re going to college, and it’s a whole new playing field.

1. Buying school supplies

Expectation:

You probably think that with every new school year comes a whole new set of pens, pencils and adorable notebooks, right? You know, the ones that you see all over Tumblr reblogged onto the studyblrs, or the colorful Kate Spade notepads that you keep repinning.

Reality:

The truth is, you’re a broke college student just like all the movies said you would be. No, you can’t afford to buy those Moleskine notebooks that all the hipsters use, and you probably still get excited when you find a pen someone left behind in the section before yours. In reality, the only new supplies you’ll be buying are highlighters and index cards for the excessive amounts of flashcards you always tend to make.

2. Meeting your soulmate

Expectation:

New year, new people—or at least, that’s what we tell ourselves every night before the first day of school. Your high school hopes and dreams of meeting that cute transfer (or rekindling an old flame) carry on into college, and you anxiously await your first encounter with “the one” as soon as you turn 18. It happens in the movies, so why couldn’t it happen to you, right?

Reality:

Wrong! Turns out, the only thing on your mind on your first day of a new year at college is whether you should take this GE pass/fail. Why would you even consider finding a soulmate when you can barely remember where you left your student ID, let alone the hundreds of key terms for that one Art History class to fulfill your last requirement?

3. Weekend plans

Expectation:

College: a big kid’s playground where 18-23 year olds party hop till they drop. Now that you’re into your young adult years (but not quite grown up yet), you’re probably going to have nightly invites to the hottest parties—and you’ll always have a date. 

Reality:

In reality, your Friday nights will consist of staring at a screen until your computer overheats—either from marathon-ing too much Netflix or cramming for your week three midterm. Weekends will be your time to recharge, and if you can squeeze a Thirsty Thursday in, it will be right after you electronically submit that essay way too last minute.

4. Food

Expectation:

You probably think that college is the place where you can eat cereal and ice cream for dinner every night and French fries are in constant supply. You get excited over the idea of mixing Cocoa Puffs with coffee ice cream and your parents can’t do anything about it.

Reality:

The truth is, the food in the dining halls isn’t everything you’ve been dreaming of. For the first few weeks, you are in awe of the variety, but by week four you realize that you miss your parents' cooking even more than you thought you would. Better rethink that unlimited meal plan because you’ll be craving buttermilk waffles and homemade dinners your mom and dad always told you to finish (but you never wanted to).

5. Dorm room aesthetics

Expectation:

You’ve been searching Pinterest for dorm inspiration since you were a second semester senior in high school. You’ve scoured the Anthropologie website for Tumblr-worthy bedding and your phone is filled with lists of websites where you’ve found the best twinkle lights.  Even your laptop case has to match the bohemian-princess theme you’ve decided on.

Reality:

In reality, you’ll be living in a shoebox for the next year. You may be on the bottom bunk, and you don’t have nearly as much wall space to display those 50 Polaroid pictures you’ve taken this summer. But even though your room is way smaller than you imagined, you will still try to make it your own safe haven, free from (some) weeknight distractions.

6. Homework

Expectation:

Syllabus week? No problem! Why would your professor assign homework during the first week of a new semester? I mean, they don’t want to have to start grading papers this soon…

Reality:

You have assignments before you’ve even moved into your dorm. You’ve received emails about the textbooks you need since three weeks before the year started, and you have an online quiz due on the second day of class.  Study group at Starbucks, anyone?

8. Friendship

Expectation and Reality:

College is the place where your life truly starts. It is where you truly find yourself and meet life-long friends who will stay with you throughout the years of midterms and breakups, coffee dates and all-nighters. This is what you expect it to be, and this is what it really is. Whether you’re just starting college for the first time or you’re beginning the first day of your senior year, you tend to expect something entirely different than reality, but sometimes reality ends up being a whole lot better than you expected.


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