If you’re relying on secondhand stories or movies about college to form your impressions of higher education, you may be in for a shock when you see what things are really like. Here are eight common misconceptions that continually confuse students and parents.
There’s a good chance that your parents and their friends went to college because it was a somewhat rare achievement. A degree could almost guarantee a comfortable upper middle class life, complete with its accompanying requisite home, cars, and annual family vacations. These days, things are slightly different. New college graduates are moving in with Mom and Dad in droves because they haven’t yet secured employment or the jobs they’ve gotten don’t pay enough to pay the rent, but as The New York Times points out, more and more employers expect applicants to have post-high school education.
Although Forbes reports that the American Bar Association does not recommend a particular major for future law students to pursue during their undergraduate years and medical schools accept applicants who majored in humanities and social sciences as well as the biological sciences, your college major can make a difference when it comes to your starting salary—or whether or not you’re able to get a job at all. A recent Georgetown University study found that the unemployment rates among college graduates is generally far higher for those with non-technical majors.
According to US News and World Report, a 2010 study by the National Association for College Admission Counseling found that approximately one-third of college students wind up transferring to another college or university. While it may sound simple on paper, changing schools can be tougher than you think. Not only may some of your classes not count for credit at another college—especially if you try to switch from a nationally accredited school to a regionally accredited one—the social aspect can be tough, too. It can be difficult to make friends when groups and cliques have already formed, especially if you live off-campus.
Although more and more campuses are adopting no smoking policies, community college has jokingly been described as “high school with ashtrays” for decades. That’s not all that’s different—classes are generally much more complex and professors won’t constantly remind you about upcoming assignments the way high school teachers often do. If you opt for dorm life, you’ll be living with other students and your mom won’t be around to cook dinner or wash your clothes.
Speaking of community college, it’s often inaccurately described as a place for housewives who want to go back to college and people who earned bad grades during high school. A growing number of students, though—yes, even those with solid academic backgrounds and career plans—are opting to start their studies at community colleges to cut costs. The New Hampshire Eagle Tribune reports that in addition to the opportunity to attend a school with small class sizes that’s close to home, community college can help students save at least $20,000 in tuition, room and board.
Movies and TV shows have a tendency to completely intertwine college life with sorority and fraternity life. While Greek organizations can be great for socializing, leadership opportunities, and even future business / networking connections, they aren’t absolutely necessary to make friends at school. In fact, some colleges and universities don’t even have Greek systems. A whopping 86% of surveyed Wichita State University and Western Michigan University students had not participated in Greek organizations and 74% did not want to be associated with the “negative stereotypes” often associated with Greek membership, states Inside Higher Ed.
It’s a common misconception that college students are so poor they rarely have two nickels to rub together and survive on ramen noodles for that reason. While most students aren’t exactly rolling in the dough, most of them have spending money. A 2011 study found that 51% of surveyed students ordered takeout and 20% went out to eat when it came to meals. Just 20% said they ate at dining halls and a meager 9% reported buying groceries.
Some students think that their instructors are only out to get them. In most cases, that just isn’t true. Just remember that only you are accountable for your own actions. If you regularly skip class, show up late, forget assignments, and fail tests because you didn’t ask for help or assistance, your professor might have a slightly lower opinion of you than, say, students who show up on a regular basis and communicate effectively.
As you can see, there are quite a few big differences between high school and college, students aren’t necessarily scarfing ramen every night, and fraternities aren’t the only way to make friends. College tends to be a unique experience for everyone, and if you put in the effort it can be a worthwhile one!
Melissa Rhone earned her Bachelor of Music in Education from the University of Tampa. She resides in the Tampa Bay area and enjoys writing about college, pop culture, and epilepsy awareness.
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