12 Misconceptions About College Life We Wish Were True

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September 29th, 2009 in Feature

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High school students who have been prepared for college since birth (or at least nursery school) may have been told all sorts of things about college life by their parents, or likely have picked up many preconceived ideas about how it will be from the countless movies on which they they were raised. Unfortunately, most of what freshmen believe about college is just plain wrong. Getting an education isn’t always what new students think it will be. To set the record straight, here are 12 misconceptions about college life and the truth behind each of these notions, because we all wish someone had been brutally honest with us before we went to college.

The Dorms Are Nice

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Many freshmen are excited about the prospect of living in dorms on campus. The popular misconception is that living in the dorms will save you money and be loads of fun. The sad fact is that dorms are called shoeboxes for a reason – that’s about how big they are. Not only is the space only as large as most student’s closets were back home, but that tiny space is shared with a roommate, and is about as expensive as a San Francisco loft. One trip to the communal bathroom, with its open showers and fungal floors, and students quickly realize that dorms aren’t cool; they’re not cheap, and they’re a definite forfeiture of privacy. That’s all aside from the inevitably undesirable roommate that you’re going to get stuck with.

College Food is Gourmet

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While there are always exceptions, mostly at the culinary schools, one of the greatest disappointments about college is the food. Once that meal ticket is paid for, you can go to the cafeteria to munch out on some really good food any time of day, right? Wrong. The fact of the matter is that college food is about one truck-stop away from prison food, and the cafeteria is certainly no 24 hour diner, either. Oh, and you’re stuck with it, because you paid for it, and it was expensive. The nearest restaurants, no matter how cheap, are three times as expensive because the school pushes their property values higher, thus their rent as well. Your only chance is to scrounge up enough cash to split a pizza with some friends. Just remember that pizza gets old after a while too, no matter how much you love it.

Everyone is Involved With Sororities and Fraternities

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In every movie featuring college life, the sororities and fraternities look nothing short of awesome. Everyone is in one; from the jocks to the nerds to the losers, every single student is in the Greek system — in movies. They drink, party and date constantly — in movies. Sororities and frats help you get jobs, better grades, friends, relationships, and overall success in life — in movies. Does this differ in real life? Quite a bit: Pledging a sorority or fraternity is an extremely stressful and time consuming process, in which students subject themselves to the judgement of other students, who aren’t even qualified to cook french fries. During this time students also need to focus on their new courses for the semester, and pledging can divert attention away from studies. Once in a sorority or fraternity, there are dues to pay. For many, what should be an act of brother or sisterhood becomes something more akin to buying a pre-fab group of friends. In reality, quality friends on campus can be had for free, sans judgement, and it may take some time for some students to realize this.

College is Useful Life Experience

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One thing college definitely is not is actual life experience. Students are rarely watched closely by anyone, and it’s generally the first time in life that they find themselves on their own and completely free to make their own decisions. However, campus is not anything like the real word, and a college education leaves them no more prepared for life than summer camp did. Technically, summer camp was more pragmatic in many ways. Students leaving school under the delusion that they are fully prepared for the harsh realities that lay ahead of them quickly meet disappointment as they realize the ugly truth. Don’t fall into this trap, be prepared for life after school.

College Will Prepare You For Work

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A college education is not job training. When you further your education at college, you are not learning a new trade or skill — you are furthering your education. In theory, this makes you more qualified as a job applicant, but graduates still need training as they enter the workforce, and more importantly, experience. There’s also the issue of finding work. Today’s job market is rough and many graduates are unable to find a job, even if they do know what they are doing, which they generally don’t.

You’ll Get Exposure to Advanced Equipment

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Many students are excited about college because they believe they will have the opportunity to learn cutting edge techniques, and have access to advanced materials and equipment related to their intended field of work. In reality, most colleges are pretty far behind on the times, and the materials available to students are outdated by three or four years, if not a decade. Graduates enter the workforce equally behind on the times and will need to work hard to catch up, if they can get hired at all with their lack of currently relevant experience.

Your Major Will Be Really Interesting, and Suit You

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Choosing a major is an exciting part of attending college. Unfortunately, some majors are more popular than others and many classes are perpetually full. On top of that, if a student manages to get into one of these impacted majors, the odds of them keeping that major are slim, since most students change majors several times throughout their college lives. They enter the fray with starry eyes and end up choosing the major that had openings available

There Is No Homework In College

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During high school, students are often told amazing tales of the lack of homework in college. This can seem like an exciting prospect, as it gives the impression that you only need to show up for class and take the tests to ace college. In reality, serious students do their homework, even in college. There may not be a worksheet to turn in to prove you did it, but if you do not do the required reading and studies outside of class, you can find yourself in over your head very quickly. That’s discounting the thousands of teachers who actually continue to require worksheets as proof that homework has been done — just like in high school.

You’ll Learn From Experienced Professors

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It’s often believed that college courses are taught by professors. In reality, most undergraduate classes are taught by teaching assistants — who have often never taught a class before. Teaching assistants may be graduate students or undergraduate students, and may or may not actually know what they’re doing. Undergrads often need to not only learn the class materials, but also learn who is actually the best to speak to about problems, and will rarely speak to an actual professor until grad school.

It’s Best to Go Straight Into a University After High School

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Often, students and their parents feel that it is necessary to go straight from high school into a 4-year program at a university. The surprise comes around junior year when less debt-ridden friends from community college transfer to the university to complete their studies. Community college is a great place to start and get prerequisite courses out of the way for a lot less money. In the end, university graduates in the same majors will receive the same degrees, regardless of where they started out. The difference is that the student who started and finished at the full university will still be driving the same car they had in high school due to the enormous debt they’ve accrued.

You’ll Meet Lifelong Friends at College

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While some people may make friends for life at college, it’s the exception rather than the norm. You may have a lot of fun at college, party a lot and meet many new friends. However, when it’s time to start living a real life after graduation, most of these friends will only be Facebook contacts. After graduation, students go everywhere in the world to either find work, or simply to go back to where they came from to begin with. Friends scatter across the globe and with a new career to manage, you’ll hardly have time to stay in touch with them all.

You’ll Make Fantastic Memories During College

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It may seem a bit unfair to list fantastic memories as a misconception about college, but it is a harsh reality. Those who buckle down and study — forgoing the party lifestyle — will have memories of the inside of the library and their shoebox dorm room. Those who party, and waste their time and money, usually grow into adults with regrets about the years wasted. They won’t remember much of it, but the monthly student loan payments will be a sore reminder for some time to come. Overall, most college graduates will admit to having many memories of their time spent in school, but for the most part they will be overshadowed by the feeling that they really didn’t accomplish as much as they thought they had. They’ve realized that a lifetime of far more important memories await every graduating student, and that it doesn’t take long for their years at college to blur into the background.

  • 1

    Scott States

    September 29th, 2009 at 10:10 pm

    wow, I’m sorry for whoever wrote this… it doesn’t seem like they have a very fun college experience… But I disagree with this article. While I studies hard, I still made a ton of friends, many of which I am still friends with and visit when I am in their city. My dorm was great fun, filled with good guys and cute girls and 1000 great stories of late nights messing with each other and funny situations. My major (3D computer animation) was extremely interesting, and not only was I prepared for the real world by the time I graduated, but the internship I held at graduation time turned into my first job.
    True, there was no Greek system, and some of the teachers and food sucked… but it’s not about getting all your expectations handed to you, it’s about being resourceful, positive, and self realization that will help you understand what direction you want to take your life into.
    I don’t know about the person who wrote this article… but college was an incredible experience I would not change for the world.

  • 2

    10 Biggest Resume Mistakes.com States

    September 29th, 2009 at 10:34 pm

    Simple fact, graduates are increasingly unprepared for today’s job market. Learn what you can toward a very specific job, rather than degree!

  • 3

    Jim Jones States

    September 29th, 2009 at 11:24 pm

    I’m consistently amazed at how high school seniors are sold the bill that a 4 year university degree is what will seal their future employment. With the exception of some professions (health care, teaching) where formal certification is required, most would be better off going to a tech school. Less debt, learn a trade, and enter the job market quicker.

    Upper education is the next bubble to burst. Thank god.

    Jim http://www.TextMatch.me — Love on the go.

  • 4

    Brotha Jonze States

    September 29th, 2009 at 11:42 pm

    I disagree with everything here. Go to UCLA. If you can.

  • 5

    Allison Manfred States

    September 30th, 2009 at 1:03 pm

    What? Who goes to college thinking there will not be homework? Studying for tests alone took up hours and hours of time each day!

  • 6

    E States

    September 30th, 2009 at 1:03 pm

    I am 99% sure you weren’t in a Greek house and experienced some form of jealousy and curiosity as to what that experience was all about. Ever join a club soccer team? Same thing. Common interested group that you paid to be a part of. Don’t knock it till you try it, or write about something of which you know nothing about.

  • 7

    Bob States

    September 30th, 2009 at 1:04 pm

    Excellent article. Very accurate indeed. The people who have fun at college have shiitty majors like business with easy ass classes and easy professors.

    And yet, I’ve had business/finance friends who didn’t have much fun either, so any major can have a shiitty time at university.

  • 8

    Blake Sunshine States

    September 30th, 2009 at 1:05 pm

    While I disagree with many things written in this article, the one that really bothers me is telling people that experienced professors won’t teach their classes. I attended the University of Texas, which is the largest undergraduate university at just over 50,000 students. I had many classes that were taught my very experienced and achieved professors. In fact, I can’t think of one class I took that was taught exclusively by a teaching assistant or grad student. I think professors around the country would be angered if they thought their perception was one of non-approachability. Lots of professors are willing to spend the time to educate their students.

  • 9

    Grace Boyle States

    September 30th, 2009 at 1:05 pm

    I agree with the food and dorms aspect, but it seems like this college experience wasn’t a positive one, at all.

    Although college isn’t “real life” (do people think college is how your life is forever, anyway?!) it still prepares you for many aspects of your future. My college was always up-to-date with the latest technology and that is a Professors job. I also never had a T.A., ever. I chose a smaller school because I didn’t want someone basically the same age as me as grad student, teaching. I did make lifelong friends and make fantastic memories. I think your experience is what you make it. You have a lot of control over your experiences in life and not only college.

  • 10

    Keli States

    September 30th, 2009 at 1:36 pm

    College was the best time of my life! Even living in my shoe box dorm room with my odd ball roomates!

    I did make lasting friendships!

    The food was so terrible I actually lost weight versus gaining the freshman 15…jk.

    And I was fortunate enough to only have TA’s lead our discussions…I had a few PhD level candidates teach, but I don’t think they did any worse than some of my tenured profs.

  • 11

    John States

    September 30th, 2009 at 4:47 pm

    I go to University of Akron, I am an Electrical Engineering student and therefore have absolutely no time. I have always had a good time at college and though I will agree my time is most often spent in the library studying for endless hours, the fact that I am in a fraternity makes it that much easier. It forces me to go to at least 2-3 events a week and socialize. Whether you believe it or not college and fraternities do help to forge lifelong friendships, some of the alumni from my chapter still get together and have lunch at least once a month and they’re from the 50s. Not all food sucks, Most campuses, mine included has many other options and the meal plans which are overpriced incorporate some amount of non cafeteria style food. I have never had any class taught by someone with only their bachelors, let alone an Undergrad. This may be in part due to the fact that my major involves a science and therefore smart professors do good research. (Akron makes the 3rd most off of it’s patents in Ohio behind Case and OSU). Also in terms of preparing people for the workforce, a degree such as those in engineering isn’t even to teach you specifically what you will encounter on a day-to-day basis but instead to teach you how to deal with problems. If your teacher could teach you everything you will ever do in your job, the world wouldn’t need you. Community colleges may be a trap, there are some classes that can be taken there whereas some classes should NOT! besides the fact that those classes may not all transfer, you may get an inferior introduction to a class that you may need later, as in the case of one of my friends who had no idea what was going on for the next 2-3 years since he took a class at a community college that was allowed to transfer.

  • 12

    Chantal States

    October 12th, 2009 at 12:03 pm

    I strongly disagree with a number of things in this article. For one thing, I feel like bad food and strange roommates are all part and parcel of the college experience. I’ve had several different (random) roommates and ended up loving them all, regardless of how quirky or weird they were. As for the food, it’s really not that important and at most colleges that allow you to move off-campus it stops being a problem after your sophomore year. In fact, I live off-campus now and sometimes miss being able to saunter into the dining room at all hours and have a hot meal. As for the rest of it, I’ve made the most amazing friends in college, and I go to an enormous school (my class alone is roughly 4,000+ students). Also, NO ONE get’s shunted into a major they don’t want. That’s honestly the most ridiculous thing I’ve heard. And while I agree that some lower level classes are taught by TA’s, most are taught by experienced professors. Not to mention that TA’s can turn out to be really interesting/educational/fun. It sounds like you are bitter about a bad 4 years and are trying to blame it on the “reality” of college when in reality you probably were either at a college that wasn’t the right fit for you or you didn’t make the most of it. A lot of what college is about is developing the right attitude, learning to be flexible, and taking in new things (all traits you will have to use in “the real world”). Thankfully I was able to do that and can say that my experience is wildly different from yours. To everyone out there reading this article who is maybe a potential college student and is discouraged, don’t be. Just keep in mind that a lot of different people have a lot of different experiences and that doesn’t mean that their warped perception of college is true. It is (or will be) exactly what you make of it. So good luck!

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