There’s a ton of things no one will tell you about your freshman year.
You’ve heard the basics: chances are good you and your roommate won’t be all Mary-Kate n’ Ashley, campus dining sucks, the showers are gross and most frat boys have more than Socrates on their minds. But underneath the “ugly truths” is a whole ‘nother layer you’ll never discover until you set foot on campus — until now. I’m here to expose the secret of what college will really be like.
Along the way, you’re going to learn some really embarrassing things about me. There was that time I accidentally asked a guy out… in front of his girlfriend. The time I burst into loud, noisy tears during my professor’s office hours. The time I fell off the treadmill in the gym. I’m not afraid to bare it all for the sake of your education. So let’s get started with my Top Five Secrets of Freshman Year.
1. You might not be happy
My first quarter of freshman year I was miserable. I didn’t admit this to anyone, of course, because everyone knows college is the best four years of your life. Instead of telling any of my friends how homesick and stressed and hopeless I felt, I stuffed all of my emotions down and spent a lot of time in my dorm room. I wish I had known there were tons of first-years like me, walking around campus wondering when the time of their lives would begin. Good news: after my difficult adjustment period, I joined the student paper, started writing for a bunch of magazines, explored and fell in love with my college town and became much, much happier. Basically, if you don’t immediately love college, you’re not weird or the only one.
2. It’s not always fair
Quick quiz: what letter grade is a 94%? If you said an A, yeah, that’s what I thought too! Nonetheless, I had a professor who adamantly insisted that according to his unique grading scale, it was a B+. I took my concerns to my major’s department head, who said that professors have the right to decide their own grading scales, no matter how wacky. So that was that; goodbye 4.0.
There are plenty more “this can’t be right” moments in college: you need Course A before you can take Course B, but Course A fills up before you can register for it every. single. time. You miss one day of class because you’re suffering from the Black Death (aka the flu) and that’s the day there’s a surprise essay… no make-ups!
I don’t want to paint college as this soul-less, depressing place with arbitrary justice — there are plenty of people who go above and beyond to help students in tough situations — but you should know that things are going to happen that won’t be fair. And you’ll need to live with them.
3. You’ll have a lot of responsibility
Yes, there will be no one to make you go to class or wake up before the cafeteria switches from tater tots to tuna sandwiches. However, there also won’t be anyone forcing you to attend those 8 a.m. job fairs, “Using LinkedIn” workshops or that “Magic and Myth: the Mayans” lecture, either. There’s no extra credit for these like in high school, so most underclassmen ignore all of the amazing (free!) resources in favor of what I call the Big S: studying, sleeping, and… stuffing their faces with food. I really wish that instead of just going to the goats in the library event (bonus truth: come midterm and final time, there will always be cute animals in the library) I had also gone to hear the graphic designer for the New York Times speak or learned how to negotiate my salary.
4. Not all classes are super fun and cool
I thought a little naively — okay, a lot naively — that after high school I’d never have to take a class I wasn’t interested in again. After all, my school’s course catalog was thicker than all seven Harry Potter books — stacked on top of each other. Yeah, I’d have obligatory major and general courses, but there was so many options I’d be sure to find something that intrigued me. Here’s the thing: while there might be five different classes that fulfilled the Life Science requirement, the only one that fit my schedule was General Botany.
And sorry, pine trees, but your tree bark doesn’t exactly get my mental juices pumping. Most people I know end up plowing through a couple of classes they really don’t like just to get to graduation. It doesn’t fit the idealistic, “college is an intellectual’s paradise” view, but it’s reality. On the plus side, there are also some amazing classes like “Behavioral Effects of Psychoactive Drugs” that will have you leaning over your desk in fascination.
I considered canceling my Netflix account before I came to school. After all, I reasoned, who has time for “Orange is the New Black” when there are textbooks, coffee shops, concerts, picnics, theme parties and policy debates calling 24/7 — and we haven’t even talked about the weekend yet?!? It turns out: everyone has time. Based on some purely anecdotal data, I think most students’ TV consumption shoots up insanely in college. It turns out that when your brain is numb from four hours of looking at Chemistry formulas there’s nothing more comforting or relaxing than some good ol’ “House of Cards.”
Oh, and if the closest you get to a party is watching (fictional) college students attend (fictional) soirees on your (very real) bed? Totally normal. Trust me.
So there you have it: my five secrets of freshman year. Don’t worry, there are more secrets to come.