“College will be the best four years of your life,” they said. “You’ll meet your husband,” they said. “You’ll never find that happiness again,” they said.
Are the stories of dad’s frat bros and his “glory days” too good to be true? What happens when you get to college and your roommate is a slob, you don’t click with your hall-mates and classes that were a breeze in high school are harder than scoring a date with the quarterback of the football team? Are students disappointed with college experiences when they don’t live up to the hype?
The first week of college is exciting and painfully awkward, complete with an unfamiliar roommate, unfamiliar lifestyle and unfamiliar environment—but certain unattainable expectations.
University of Maryland freshman Joanne Cardea remembers her first night in college (like many of us) as less than spectacular. “I was expecting to go out with my roommate. As I was straightening my hair I look over to find her sleeping mask on and a pillow full of drool,” Cardea said. “I thought to myself, Facebook really hyped it.”
Within my first week at UMD, my friends from home were all texting each other “No husbands yet,” “These frat boys don’t look anything like the cast of Neighbors.” We just began our journey for higher education, a journey towards self-discovery and a greater purpose— and all we could talk about was husband potential.
The more my friends and I chatted about football games, sororities and Natty Light, the more I realized we were shaping our lives into the mold of the college kids that came before us. From movies to older siblings to chatty housewives at dinner parties, our expectations of what college is supposed to be reflected the sum of hundreds of exterior influences.
I realized my strive to fulfill these expectations wasn’t making me happy, and seriously killing my vibe. And it turns out, I’m not the only one. According to the University of Maryland Counseling center’s website, “This year, 1 in 3 Terps will feel too depressed to function.” Why are so many college students depressed?
According to Dr. Selterman, psychology professor who specializes in adolescent psychology at University of Maryland, there’s a concept called pluralistic ignorance. “When college students looked at alcohol consumption and casual sex, they believe friends are enjoying themselves a lot more than they are actually are,” Selterman said. It’s basically false FOMO.
Feeling homesick during the first semester, I found myself FaceTiming with my family. Their cheesy birthday songs over the phone just wasn’t the same this year, and I never thought I’d miss seeing my face plastered on a giant cake.
Meanwhile, my friend Megan was on her own struggle bus at the University of Delaware. She thought she would make instant friends with the other girls living on her dorm floor, Legally Blonde-style. Instead she was let down to find out they were all computer science nerds who never went out and stuck to their high school cliques, #outofstateprobz.
The major key is realizing that everyone has a different college experiences, so expectations don’t equal reality. Remember to find the positives in any sh*tty situation.
Megan didn’t find her dream squad in her own dorm hall, so she eventually sought out a cooler dorm to chill with cooler people.
Even my favorite dance teacher still talks about her freshman year roommate, “Crazy Liz,” who would spy on her and have random spells of kleptomania, stealing coozies and wall posters from frat houses. If you know a “Crazy Liz” right now, she could be a crowd pleasing story later in life.
“College is what you make of it,” they should say. “You’ll meet a lot of different types of people,” they should say. “Some people want to relive college, others peak at different times,” they should say. And even if you have the roommate from hell, call him Hellish Harry and tell the stories on first dates to help break the ice.