What Freshman Year Is Really Like: Expectation Versus Reality

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What? You mean this won’t be just like “Gossip Girl”?


Expectation: You think you’re going to rack up straight As, all while maintaining an active social life and getting a good night’s rest. High school was probably pretty easy for you, judging by the fact that you’re now at college pursuing a higher degree. You were an athlete, a musician, a volunteer at the local humane society, the lead in the school play, and a scholar all at the same time. There’s no foreseeable reason why you wouldn’t be able to handle college, right?

Reality: You’re not going to know what the hell you’re doing the first semester. You’ll fail at least one exam, and you’ll end up calling your mom, sleep-deprived and sobbing into said very marked-up, very red, and very failed biology exam.

Picking A Major

Expectation: Your parents are probably pushing for either pre-med or pre-law, because they think those are the only professions that are worthy of their hefty investment in your education. They also think those are the only ones that you’ll make a living with later on in life.

Reality: If you somehow make it through college without getting weeded out of those rigorous programs and you’re lucky enough to be the one in every gazillion applicants who gets into medical or law school, then you deserve some fucking applause. On the other hand, if you drop out of one of these programs, decide to do something that you’re genuinely interested in, and end up in a field that makes you happy, you deserve even more applause. Believe it or not, you can actually make money doing what you love–all you need is a little initiative.

Work Study

Expectation: Since you’re just starting out, you don’t want to overcommit to an outside job during college, so you arrange to do some cool-sounding job in a department on campus. Once you get settled, you can probably start working more hours and stop bugging your parents for extra cash.

Reality: The pennies you rack up with your monthly paycheck for doing bitch work for some dean won’t even compare to what you could make if you waited tables or bartended just one night a weekend.

Campus Fashion

Expectation: You splurged on back-to-school wear this year. I mean, you have to look awesome for your first year of college, right? It’s the most important time of your life, and you can’t go without looking super hot and fashionable. Duh.

Reality: After about a month–maybe a full semester for some of the tougher ladies–you’ll give up wearing skinny jeans, cute shirts, and designer flats and trade them in for sweats, leggings, gym shorts, oversized tees, and fleece jackets. But, you know what? They’re comfortable and make for easy class to bed transitions (especially for post-final sleep binging sessions).


Expectation: Fall break, Thanksgiving break, and spring break are when you’ll finally get a chance to either do something crazy or just go home and pass out in a food comma for a few days. It’ll be awesome: no tests, no assignments, no 20 bazillion page reports, no nothing.

Reality: You’re wrong. So very wrong. Professors are going to see that time as extra days for you to study, write papers, and complete projects. I can’t tell you how many times I sat at home for hours during a break doing homework. During my senior year, I had to send a paper to my philosophy professor in the middle of spring break from the Dominican Republic. Those jackasses aren’t going to give you a real break, so just surrender that thought now.

Escaping Mom And Pop

Expectation: Getting away from Mom and Dad is going to feel like you’re a caged bird being released into the sky. No curfew, no real rules, no parental controls. You’ll finally get to live the R-rated life you’ve always dreamed of.

Reality: You’re going to end up missing home a lot. You’ll miss Mom’s cooking, Dad’s wallet, your sibling’s annoying (but still cute) little quirks, and your friends from home. But you’ll get a healthy dose of these things over Christmas and summer breaks, so don’t worry.

Being Healthy

Expectation: Now that you’ll have plenty of food options and a free gym for student use at your fingertips, you will finally have time to eat healthy and stay in shape.

Reality: You’re going to order Chinese and go through the drive-thru at Taco Bell more times than you thought humanly possible. As for the gym, where the hell is it even at? You’ll never know, because you’ll probably never go–unless it’s right before spring break.

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premed donna

Who said you can't be smart and funny? When I'm not writing for TSM, you can find me studying into oblivion, downing a bottle of chardonnay, and/or sobbing for reasons I have yet to understand. All hate fan mail can be sent to

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