What To Expect The First Year Of College

what to expect the first year of college
source: Massachusetts Office of Travel & Tourism

You’ve graduated high school and you’re enjoying your last days of summer before you move to college. Your college preparation probably only focuses on finding a roommate, picking a meal plan, bringing dorm supplies, and packing clothes.

While you’re ready for move-in day, you’re probably not prepared for your first year of college. And that’s not your fault, it’s hard to know what to expect.

However, the more you know what to expect, the easier it is to make good decisions. The following list of 15 expectations will help prepare you for freshman year.

What To Expect The First Year Of College

1. You’ll have independence and flexibility like never before.

No longer are you stuck to the 8am to 3pm school-hour schedule. College gives you freedom to take only morning classes or afternoon classes. Or you can schedule all five classes on Monday and Wednesday and have five days a week without class.

(I don’t recommend that. My preference is to balance your classes Monday through Thursday, and get Fridays off.)

You’re also free to watch Netflix until 4am and eat your first meal at 1pm. You get the point. However, having a flexible schedule doesn’t mean you won’t be busy.

2. Introduction classes are boring, but required.

Part of freshmen year is taking general education classes that you have no interest in (see what classes to take here).

There’s two ways to tackle these classes. You can think of them as a waste of time as you struggle to show up and study. Or, you can view this introductory class as a small and necessary step to accomplishing your long-term goals.

Finding a purpose in an introductory class will make time pass smoother and you’ll do better. In this case, perception is reality.

3. It’s extremely easy to meet new friends in your freshman dorm.

In the dorms, you’ll live next to hundreds of people who are all a short walking distance away. Many rooms leave their doors open, waiting for people to come in and say hi.

Guys, it’s as easy as asking someone to play FIFA, NHL, Madden, etc., and you’re almost guaranteed to make friends. Girls, (I asked my sister for help on this one) ask if they want to go to the dining hall with you.

4. Your roommate will annoy you at times.

Your roommate might be your best friend from high school or what your roommate matchmaker tool says is the perfect fit, but they will annoy you.

Common roommate problems include one person staying up too late, the other getting up too early, music too loud, a significant other being over too much, wanting the room at different temperatures, preferences for a clean room, taking up too much fridge space, how the furniture is spaced, and the list goes on.

The best way to handle roommate issues is to be patient, let the little things go, and have civil discussions about the bigger concerns in hopes of a compromise.

5. Your RA can be your friend or enemy, it’s usually up to you.

If you treat your RA with respect, you’re most likely going to get the benefit of the doubt. For example, when he hears loud noises (during a pregame) in your room Friday night at 11pm, he will text you to keep it down and walk back to his room.

If you’re a jerk to your RA, you’re most likely not going to get the benefit of the doubt. For example, when he hears loud noises (during a pregame) in your room Friday night at 11pm, this time he will ask to come in. Then you’ll get busted for alcohol and have to go to a disciplinary hearing.

Beyond keeping you out of trouble, RAs can also be a great resource for school, internships, or other life advice. I reached out to my RA for help with my resume, and then he became my unofficial mentor for career questions.

6. Everyone will ask your major, don’t decide until you’re ready.

One of the first questions you’re going to get as a freshman is, “What’s your major?” There’s nothing wrong with this question and it can be a good conversation starter. But, hearing it over and over without an answer can create the standard that you have to decide your first year, or you’re in trouble. That’s not true.

One of the worst decisions in college is picking the wrong major because of pressure from your parents, friends, or society. When you graduate, you want to work in a field that makes you happy.

So, take your time and choose the right major for yourself, not other people. In addition, you might need an internship during the summer to help you choose a major.

7. Professors often make or break college classes.

Odds are that your college professors will have the biggest effect on your class experiences. A teacher you don’t connect with can ruin a class you were once excited about. And a great teacher can make otherwise boring material into something you enjoy. Most of this is out of your control.

However, you can control one thing: making an effort to get to know your professor. Start by introducing yourself on the first day. Then stop in office hours to discuss an assignment, talk about your future, or ask questions about their life.

Similar to how you treat the RA, if your professor sees your effort to learn and better yourself, you could gain the benefit of the doubt on graded assignments. Also, it’s smart to cultivate relationships with faculty early. This way you’re well-prepared when you ask for a recommendation letter as a junior or senior.

8. The freshman 15 is coming, if you don’t have a gameplan.

Many freshman will joke about gaining the freshman 15 in the beginning of the year.

But, these unwanted 15 pounds are real and coming your way if you don’t take action against it. If you want to avoid this extra weight, make a routine to go to the gym a certain number of days each week. Plus, eat nutritious foods and remind yourself of your commitment to stay healthy.

I also wrote a previous post about the freshman 15.

9. When you get homesick, you can overcome it.

college freshman, homesick
This is my big and bad dog, Berkeley.

You’re probably going to miss something about home when you go away to college.

Before you get too emotional, acknowledge the feeling of worry as natural. Then replace your worry by thinking about all the new experiences you would miss at school, if you stayed at home.

Plus, your family and friends are a simple phone call or a video chat away. Distance makes the heart grow fonder right?

(Or, if you’re like me, you’ll only miss your dog.)

10. There’s no dress code for going to class, but some social pressure exists.

Coming from a private high school with a strict dress code, having no dress code seemed weird the first couple of weeks. Then I wore whatever my mood called for: some days casual, other days I tried harder. And of course, I had the early mornings where I wore a Patagonia hat so low people couldn’t see my eyes.

However, dressing extremely casual is less acceptable at some buildings, like the business school.

11. Studying can be impossible if you don’t find “your place.”

Most college students only think of when they’re going to study and for how long. But, your study environment plays a critical role in the quality of your studying.

So, spend two minutes strategically picking your study location. If you pick the wrong place (like your dorm room), it might be impossible to focus.

12. You’ll have to decide if Greek life is for you or not.

Depending on your school, you’ll want to start thinking early if Greek life is for you or not. While I support all the advantages that Greek life offers, you can also have an amazing social life without pledging.

There are plenty of other areas to branch out, like your dorm, your classes, the gym, at athletic events, or a party. Also, joining a student organization where you share similar interests is another option.

13. Alcohol is huge in college, yet not the only thing to do.

Whether you go to a big party school or a small private school, alcohol is going to be prevalent to some degree.

However, you don’t have to go out if you don’t want to. Thousands of students don’t drink and love their time in college.

14. Community bathrooms are gross.

If you live in a dorm where the whole floor shares a community bathroom, which I did, the situation isn’t ideal. But, it’s out of your control so don’t waste energy on it.

My only pro-tips are to try each shower head until you find the best one, avoid bathroom rush hour, and wear flip flops—you can get a pair on my back to college shopping list.

The positive here is experiencing community bathrooms will leave you thankful when you move to an apartment or house.

15. When you’re denied registration from classes you need, it’ll be fine.

The situation goes like this: Before registration, you create a mock schedule exactly as you want it.

The only problem is your class registration time is ten minutes after some other students start. But, you hope for the best as you stare at the clock until you’re allowed to go. Then your nightmare is real—all the classes you wanted are closed.

Relax at this moment. You can add classes after the fact through force add slips, checking the system regularly to see if someone dropped, and showing up the first day to ask the professor to join.

Send Off

Although you know more of what to expect your first year, it will still be weird and uncomfortable at times. But, I loved my freshman year and I’m positive you will, too.

Stay positive, keep reading this website (or never read it again), get off to a good start, and don’t look back!

And if you’re looking for a guide that covers everything you need to know to get the most out of college, I just published a book with 80 rules on college success titled How To College. It’s the exact guide I would have killed to have as a freshman.

Readers, what questions do you have about freshmen year? If you’re an upperclassmen or a graduate, do these expectations ring true with your experience? What would you add?

Brian Robben

Brian Robben is the founder of Take Your Success, a site dedicated to helping entrepreneurs and wantrepreneurs grow a profitable business and reach freedom. For in-depth training, visit: brianrobben.com