My Trojan Experience: College Expectations vs. Reality



In the months leading up to college, I subconsciously began forming expectations for what college life would be like. With each day college approached, my expectations grew higher.

Simply put, I expected college to be fun and full with new experiences. I had completely disregarded the actual academic “school” part of college.  

My expectations led me to picture the college experience with lively events, exploring Los Angeles, and spending time with new friends. Failure, struggles, and trauma did not exist in the picture. However, after experiencing college for half a semester, I now realize that it does not live up to the expectations I had built.

First of all, classes are much harder than I had prepared myself for. Maybe I had gotten too used to senioritis and the senior year attitude, but I forgot how difficult keeping up with schoolwork would be in college. In just the first few weeks of classes, I was already drowning in assignments from professors and I didn’t know how to handle it.

Aside from professors’ difficult and arbitrary grading, the schoolwork has also been overwhelming to a point I have not experienced before. The sheer amount of work and time I would have to spend doing schoolwork was something I had not considered before coming to college. But then again, why didn’t I? Why did I think that the hard work and stress of school would end after high school?

We all have this surreal idea that college is the place of our dreams, full of fun and games, because we have only heard about the good times college brings without ever considering the other side of the spectrum. After all, college is really just another institution of education and schooling. My mind was not prepared to take on the fast-paced, strenuous, and hard work of college classes.

Another reality of college is that as a freshman, I don’t get to go off campus as much as I thought I would. I actually spend a majority — if not all — of my time on campus or in my dorm. Part of this reality is due to the amount of schoolwork that I had not considered, but another part of it is the lack of transportation.

As a freshman living in a residential college, opportunities to venture off campus are small without the convenience of a car. Yes, the metro and Uber are sufficient modes of transportation within Los Angeles, but public transportation can’t compare to the benefits of owning a car.

Because college has not fully lived up to my initial definition of fun, I do not feel like I’ve been fully enjoying my time in college. Recognizing the expectations I had held for my college experience has made me self-aware in becoming more open-minded to experimenting ways college can be enjoyable for me outside of my preconceived standards.

After experiencing the realities of college these past few weeks, I wonder why I had ever formed expectations for my college experience in the first place. Even though we all know very well that expectations almost always lead to disappointment, we can’t help but subconsciously imagine what is in store for us in the future.

The college experience should not be held to a certain standard because everyone experiences it in different ways. Our expectations restrict us from being open-minded and viewing college from diverse perspectives. Fun should not be defined only in terms of going off campus, but rather in ways you can enjoy your time here and truly be happy with yourself.