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Top 10 College Mistakes and Misconceptions

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If you’ve ever watched some of the popular college movies or TV shows (oldies but goodies include the late ‘90s series Felicity and 2001’s Legally Blonde) or you’ve checked your favorite websites for college advice, then you’ve probably got a good idea of what to expect, right? Well, maybe. A lot of what you see and/or hear isn’t exactly true.

Here are 12 of the top misconceptions about college…

1. Living in a dorm room is like one big slumber party. Living at home and sharing a room with your brother or sister wasn’t much of a constant party, was it? At home, you were also able to hang out in the living room or kitchen. Your dorm room is your bedroom, kitchen, and living space rolled into one. If you’re living in a traditional double room, even the modern ones are still about the size of a shoe box. (Most college campuses have more old dorms than new.)

2. Getting away from your parents means total freedom. Without Mom and Dad questioning your whereabouts and telling you what you can and cannot do, you’ll finally be able to live your life just how you want, right? Kind of. Many students who go away to college wind up homesick—something they never expected—and still call home for advice. Oh, and to ask for money.

3. You’ll hate your roommate. Heard horror stories about evil roommates who use (and lose or break) people’s things without asking? Roommates with body odor who never hit the showers? Roommates who have no qualms about bringing their significant other home to get some action? While these things could happen, many college roomies get along fine. And others barely ever see each other due to conflicting class and work schedules.

4. You’ll become instant BFFs with your roommate. See number three. While it is possible to become lifelong buddies with your new college roommate, it’s not a guarantee. You might not even remember his or her name after graduation.

5. The classes are so big, no one will ever notice if you don’t show up. Lecture halls packed with 200 or 300 students means you’ll never be missed! While that may be true in some large classes that are core requirements, others have 20 or 30 students and meet in traditional-sized classrooms just like you had in high school. Skipping class won’t do you any favors anyway—you never know when you’ll miss an unannounced quiz or important handout.

6. As long as you get good grades on your exams, your GPA will be excellent. Tests are all that matter in college! Right? Well, exams do count for a lot of your final course grade, but papers, projects and other occasional assignments will also play a role. You could earn A’s and B’s on every exam but get a bad grade on a required essay that drops your grade significantly.

7. There’s no homework! Homework in college is often optional, but there’s sure to be plenty of require reading and it’s also in your best interest to do suggested assignments even if you’re not obligated. They will give you a taste of what’s to come on future exams and allow you to ask for assistance if something is confusing.

8. You will discover your true self during college. College is often promoted as the best years of your life. Many people decide to transform themselves physically, with new hairstyles and new clothing, and others wind up discovering that they have interests they never even dreamed possible. If that doesn’t happen to you though, it’s okay. You’ll still do a lot of growing up and go through plenty of changes that aren’t totally obvious on a day-to-day basis. When you look back at your freshman self four years later, you’ll be amazed at how much you changed since orientation.

9. High school cliques will be a thing of the past. It’s easy to assume that those groups of cheerleaders, football players, video game fanatics, and honor society prize-winners who had segregated “spots” in the hallways and high school cafeteria will be a thing of the past in college. Well, kind of. College is still full of clubs, groups, and also fraternities and sororities with members who socialize exclusively with one another. Even students who are majoring in the same subject wind up hanging out together because they spend so much time together during class.

10. Paying off student loans won’t be that bad. You’ll be able to work full-time after graduation. Borrowing money to pay for college will be worth it in the long run, right? Even if it’s not a six-figure salary, you’ll be able to land some kind of full-time job after earning your degree. That’s actually not a great attitude to have—some students wind up leaving college before they graduate, but they are still responsible to paying off their student loans. Others graduate but can’t land full-time work. If you don’t pay close attention, you may be borrowing way more than you even realize and a $700 a month loan payment is going to be a big burden on your entry-level salary. If you find a job, that is.

Have Realistic College Expectations

Having an unrealistic picture of college in your mind involves more than disappointing your own expectations. Education Week’s Caralee Johnson Adams explains that Preparing Students to Transition from High School to College, a study compiled by IQS Research, suggests that people who have misconceptions about college might not be able to adequately prepare themselves—both academically and behaviorally—or adopt the habits necessary to be a successful college student.

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Melissa Rhone+

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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