Expectation Vs Reality of college

For first-year college students, the heat of August brings anticipation and the beginning of a new chapter of life. Television, movies, social media and stories from those who’ve gone before us all shape our ideas of what the college experience is supposed to resemble. But is it really like Animal House or the pictures we see on Facebook of our friends dolled up and having the time of their lives?

Some students will graduate from high school satisfied to have met the expectations of public education and family. However, many students don’t want high school to be the end of their journey. They want a college degree, and the opportunities it can provide. Attending Western as an 18-year-old, straight out of high school, I had a romanticized idea of what would happen. My expectations were framed in part by movies and the stories I heard from friends after their first semester of college. Having easily succeeded in high school without needing to study, the freedom acquired by moving into the dorm and away from my mother was exciting. However, I soon found myself making poor decisions simply because I could and didn’t understand the reality of college. I expected to have fun, to meet new people and make friends. What I didn’t expect was to spend my weekends doing homework and studying for tests, and to go to bed at 2 am because I didn’t use my time properly. The expectations in my head were a far cry from the reality of college life.

It has been a real challenge for me to look at my expectations and to take responsibility for them. I realized that I had to keep my expectations in check; that there was no blame to be spread because my expectations were unfulfilled; and that it was only disappointment that I was experiencing — the end of the world would come later. I doubt that I’m the only one around who has had conflicting feelings and thoughts about expectations. For my first project in my English 101 class, I had to make a podcast about college life. And I thought what would be a better topic than talking about college students disappointment and expectations; ”Expectation Vs Reality of college.” I started my podcast thinking that my roommate and I were the only ones that have been unsatisfied by our first week of the college experience. But I had to interview WWU’s student to come to my conclusion. And the answers I got from most the students were “It’s different” and “It’s not what I thought it would be” for the question “How is college life going?” In a way, it was kind of comforting to hear that from them.

And now I’ll take you on a journey of what expectation means. First off, it is not a promise. It is not a guarantee of a specific outcome. It is not a demand made to the Universe that our desires be met. As I looked more deeply, I saw that it is simply how we are framing both the present and the future for ourselves. It is a creative act, based on past experience, energized by emotions and feelings, and modified by our imagination and desires. As such our own personal energies are being focused on the creation of that which is “expected.”

No matter what influenced your expectations of how college should be, you were probably prepared for some things, let down by others and utterly confused at times. Adapting to a new environment can be overwhelming, but it’s important to remember that your expectations don’t have to line up with what you’ve been told. Each college experience is different, as time goes by those initial expectations may not matter. However they may have been met or missed, what is important about our experience is what we made of it.

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