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Oct 01 2017
by Zoe Forest

What Happens When College Doesn't Live Up To The Hype?

By Zoe Forest - Oct 01 2017
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I had dreamt of college since middle school, counting down the years then months and then days until I would finally head off to the promised land that was college. College, where I would meet my friends for life. College, where I would finally take classes I cared about. College, where I would be free to do whatever I wanted. In April, I was accepted to my top choice and August would be the month that all my dreams came true.

But college wasn't as great as I thought. The people still acted like it was high school, the extensive general education requirements forced me to take classes I didn't like and since I attend such a big school getting into clubs and organizations was almost more competitive than the college admissions process. I was miserable. To make it worse, everyone around me was having a great time. My roommates instantly made strong friend groups and seemed to adapt to college life perfectly. All my friends from high school were loving every moment of college. And how could I confess my feelings of disappointment to my parents who were sacrificing so much so I could go to college? I felt completely alone and unjustified in my feelings. All my life I had heard that college was the best four years. Why wasn't college all I had dreamed of?

Then I realized that portrayals of college tend to show only one side. People tend to look back on the past fondly, so when all the adults I knew told me that college was amazing they were forgetting all the times they felt just as lost and hopeless as I did. Not only that but the perception of college is heavily influenced by media, even for people who actually went to college. Just about every movie and TV show about college portrays it as a time of partying, friendship and self-discovery. But the screen rarely presents things as they really are and it is unrealistic to expect college to live up to our grand visions of what it should be. 

Additionally, having a college degree has become a standard for anyone seeking a decent job in many areas of our modern society. Many people are just expected to go to college and if they don't they are viewed as failures who are not reaching their full potential. This kind of pressure to go to college has also put a lot of pressure on students to love every moment of college and make the most of it. But for some students college will become just about getting that degree because the college environment isn't for everyone and this does not make them less intelligent or accomplished.

If your college experience is falling short of what you always imagined, do not fret. Know that your feelings are legitimate and many people do not enjoy college as much as everyone thinks they should. For some the feeling that college is terrible will pass when they find their community, find what they love to study or finally adjust to the big change of living away from home. For some all it takes is time and everyone should give college a fair chance to improve. 

But for others, college never gets better. They never find those lifelong friends or the classes they enjoy and that is okay. If you find yourself in the second category, there are several things you can do. You can research graduation requirements and see how you can graduate early. If it is the specific college — and not college in general — that has you down, consider transferring. Though it is generally not advisable to drop out, you could consider other paths such as a trade school, an internship that leads to a job or entrepreneurship opportunities. Or you can just stick it through and warn younger people that college might be the mediocre four years.

It is also important to remember that just because you are a college student, it doesn't mean your life needs to revolve around college. Seek out a job or internship that excites you more than going to classes everyday. Discover the beauty of the town or city surrounding your college. Join community organizations that aren't necessarily affiliated with your college. 

Often, college will fall short of our expectations. We will be disappointed and disillusioned with this idea that college is the greatest four years of our lives. But it is okay. Accept that college might be another four years you have to get through before life can really begin. 

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Zoe Forest - University of California, Berkeley

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