What people don’t tell you about college.
Being close to ending my fourth semester of college has made me realize, I really had no idea what was in store for me. Everyone told me about being independent, surrounded by like minded individual. I think somewhere along the way of trying to find the perfect fit where I could become the best version of myself, I forgot that at the end of the day it is still school. Fun school, but still school.
I don’t mean to say it isn’t amazing. Believe me, it is pretty incredible and I have learned so much about myself already. But it wasn’t anything like what I expected so I made a list of all the stuff people don’t tell you about going to college.
This might sound crazy, but class works very differently in college. In engineering and most other STEM classes everything is divided up into different purposes. So a class could have a lecture, discussion, lab, and quiz section that meet different amounts during the semester. Their names might give it away, but it means that each section has a pretty specific purpose. Lectures are really just that, a professor talking for most of the time with the occasional question. Discussions are led by a grad student who is getting a PhD in that subject and goes over specifics of the lecture and is a lot more back and forth, where students get to choose what is talked about. Quiz and lab are pretty self-explanatory, and all of this seems pretty straightforward, but it takes some getting used to. In high school, class was a mix of all these things leading to more diverse class time. Now, everything is delineated into specific types of time and it makes it easier to get lazy.
In high school most of the time I would have about one homework assignment per class per day that took maybe 30 minutes to an hour each. That is not at all how it works in college. Now I might have a homework per class per week, but most of the time it’s actually every two weeks. That’s because one homework assignment depending on the class takes 2 hrs+! It was a bit of a difficult transition to switch from standard homework every night to just getting through one homework question a night. Also, in high school homework was really done by yourself, but now I can’t imagine doing it by myself, between office hours and study groups I am constantly interacting with my friends and teachers as I try to work through the problems. So, while the homework is way more difficult there is more support as well.
I think a large part of college is meeting new people and making friends. In engineering there are a lot of stigmas about how you will have no friends, but that is definitely not true. The way I meet people is pretty similar between high school and college, my classes, clubs, events, that sort of thing. Now there is another level because we all live in the same space so we can spend a lot more time together, but the overall process is still pretty similar. The biggest difference is actually how diverse the people you meet are. In high school everyone was pretty constrained as to the type of people they knew because they all live within a certain distance around the school so there were a lot of similarities in life experience. In college, I now have friends who are from around the world, Korea, Zimbabwe, Mississippi, who were in the military, who are both significantly wealthier or poorer than me. The range of life experiences is so vast now and I think that has had a profound effect on widening my perspectives on the world and is probably one of my favorites things about going to USC.
So that was just a couple of the biggest things I didn’t expect from college. I am so happy at USC but it did take some time for me to feel in my element, so I hope these were useful in helping to prepare for the next four years of school!