Five Shocking Truths about College that High Schoolers Just Aren’t Prepared for

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Graduation: the day you threw off your cap in joy as you looked toward packing up the station wagon for college and leaving behind your hometown. While you may look forward to one last trip in the family truckster, heading to college won’t be as easy nor as cool as Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill made it look. Make sure you look before you leap because the jump from high school to college looks a whole lot larger up close than it does far away. If you kicked it back in high school, then get ready to kick it into high gear when you get to campus.

1. “With great power comes great responsibility”

Toss hall passes in the trash and say goodbye to raising your hand to go to the bathroom. In high school someone always held your hand, even up until you walked down the aisle for graduation. But in college you have to cross the street looking both ways by yourself. As a college student, its up to you to turn in your homework assignments on time, attend your classes and even clean your room when that three-week-old pizza starts attracting some flies. “Procrastination in studying used to be a huge struggle of mine at the beginning of college, and I’d find myself waiting until a few days before to really crack down and study for a test,” Eastern Michigan University junior Cody McIntire said. Though you have a lot of freedom to do what you want, it might not be such a good idea to sleep in till noon when your mile-long-to-do list awaits.

2. Who are you again?

You knew everyone by name in all of your high school classes, but in college, knowing three or four other students’ names makes you feel good about yourself. Though you may have a class or two with a few buddies from your dorm, most of your classes will have students whom you’ve never seen in your life before. But being in a room full of people you don’t know could actually be a blessing in disguise: an opportunity to break out of your comfort zone. Be friendly and say hi to the others struggling to keep up with the lecture, and maybe you’ll have a new study buddy or late-night-ice-cream-run friend. “In preparation for tests, exams and papers, don’t be afraid to talk through expectations with your TA or professor. Often your TA or professor will help you think through how to best prepare including sharing some study tips,” Rebekah Paré, Executive Director of Letters and Science Career Initiative and Career Services at UW-Madison, said.

3. Getting the Grade

In high school, AP exam week seemed like a giant tidal wave ready to swallow you whole and drag you down. But in college, a week of AP exams barely compares to the never-ending midterm exams, projects and papers due just about every week. It almost seems ironic that you stressed out over AP exams when your final score didn’t even count toward your grade. In college one test counts as almost your entire grade. “Being enrolled in school full time means you will be devoting [about] per week to class time and studying. Think an hour of prep per credit. A three-credit class requires you to study about three hours outside of class time,” Paré said. Though you dreaded graded homework assignments in high school, in college they bring up mixed feelings when your Chemistry class only has one exam that counts for 80 percent of your grade. So while you’ll no longer have the tedious weekly spelling tests, you’ll be wishing one of your professors quizzed you on how to spell “insurmountable” when your literature class depends upon one huge paper.

4. Look at me now–I’m spending paper

You wipe your sweaty brow and you count the last tip you made waitressing at a local café. The diner job is only one of two other summer jobs you’ve worked every day and you couldn’t be prouder that you managed to make bank. While you might have been able to save this little nest egg in high school, college will make you break the bank. In college you have to pay for textbooks, rent, groceries and extra course materials that can cost you a couple grand a semester. Add on a semester tuition fee and you can easily find yourself knee deep in bills. For a person who already has to worry about finishing the two essays due tomorrow, finding a summer internship, keeping up with club activities and somehow maintaining a social life, you may find yourself wishing for a time when all you had to worry about was what was for lunch in the cafeteria.

5. “On Wednesdays we wear pink”

Mean Girls taught us at a young age that people care how you act and look in high school. If you want to be popular in high school, you have to have the latest styles and the DL on the latest gossip. If that sounds like a terrible stereotypical dramatization, it’s not. But in the real world (aka college) no one cares if you talk to a person who wears sweatpants to class every day. In fact, everyone will envy her and those sweatpants on chilly winter days. Now, people want to try new things and meet new people. So don’t be afraid of the “in” crowd, because no one’s “in” or “out” in college and no one will tell you you can’t sit with them.

Anne is a sophomore studying journalism and history at University of Wisconsin-Madison. A native Wisconsinite, Anne loves all things Wisconsin including sporting events, the outdoors and its summer concerts.

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