11 Surprising Things About College Life

by Chrissa Hardy

Your first year of college is coming, and with it, thrilling freedom and independence. You're about to be on your own for the very first time, and will learn some awesome and surprising things about life as a college freshman. You won't have to listen to your mom yelling at you to get up on time. Nobody will hound you to finish your homework before heading out with your BFFs. The day will soon be yours to seize or snooze through.

Now, through stories from older siblings and friends, and through hilarious TV and movie comedies, you probably think you have a clear picture of what college is going to be like. You know you can stay up as late as you want, go to class if you feel like it, and get NUTS at an endless number of college parties. But what about the little things? What about the underrated bummers of life as a college kid? There are plenty of those too. Soon, you will learn all of them on your own, but for now, here are the interesting, slightly shocking, and pleasantly unexpected aspects of freshman life that you have to look forward to (or be disappointed by). Welcome to the real world, kiddos.

1. Your dorm mattress is old, and gross

It costs money to replace dorm mattresses, so most colleges won't do this until a mattress is utterly destroyed beyond repair. What does this mean? Well, just don't inspect it with a black light, or you'll immediately throw up in your mouth. Keep those new sheets on the mattress at all times.

2. Whatever cost estimate you made for your books, double it

There are tons of ways to save money on college textbooks these days, which is great. But the total price tag on your books will shock you no matter how much you're able to save. You will always have another required book to buy, and you'll end up spending more than you would on a new wardrobe or car, and that's hard to swallow.

3. You won't be able to bring all of your clothes

You have a closet and dresser at home that holds all of your favorite clothing items... so there's a way to bring all of these to college too, right? Nope. You'll get a tiny section of a shared closet, and maybe your own two-drawer dresser to hold all of it. Select your necessities, and bring only those.

4. But that's OK, because it doesn't matter what you wear, ever

Welcome to the world of daytime loungewear. You can roll out of bed and head right to class, and nobody will bat an eye because you'll see at least three other people next to you who did the same thing. Unless you have an on-campus job, you can wear whatever you want. It's fantastic.

5. Class attendance isn't always necessary

Some professors don't check attendance and don't require it as part of their grading system. So if you can learn enough about the course material to ace the tests and write the papers, you don't need to show up to the lectures.

6. Don't rely on the dining hall for nutritious meals

Most meal plans are a one-time purchase package, so you're not constantly aware of how much is spent on each meal. Let me break your heart and tell you that the food you're getting is so not worth what you're paying. But since most schools require a meal plan for first-year students, you're stuck with plates of iceberg lettuce and stale bagels. If you're looking for healthy food, then look elsewhere. But if you're looking for all-you-can-eat pasta and ice cream, then this is your mothership.

7. One night stands with people on your floor is a BAD idea

You will see them again, and frequently. If it's just a one-night thing, at least venture to another floor, because awkward post-coital run-ins will be WAY easier to avoid.

8. Resident advisors aren't the villains of college

They're students, just like you, who found a way to score a free dorm room. They need to bust you if they find you breaking the rules, but I promise it's not how they want to be spending their time. Give them a break.

9. You will hate dorm life, for the most part

It's cramped, it's consistently dirty, and there are one million distractions if you're trying to study. You will be counting down the days until you can move into a student apartment or off-campus housing where you can get your own room.

10. Establishing rules of conduct with your roommate is the key to survival and sanity

This is the only time in your life that you are forced to live with a stranger. It's going to be weird and uncomfortable, so to make it less weird and uncomfortable, you need rules. If you don't want her to eat all of your food, establish a labeling system on day one. Come up with a privacy rule for alone time or sexy time. Create a policy on sharing clothes, computers, and really anything — including something basic and clear on what to do if something gets destroyed.

11. This will be a year you will never, ever forget

Despite all stress and awkward moments this transitional stage of life brings with it, you will cherish this time for all eternity. You will probably meet some of your best friends here. You might even meet the person you will share the rest of your days with. You'll learn information that you will actually use in everyday life. You will come to understand adult independence and figure out who you are, what you want, and how to get all of it. Soak up every second, because it'll be over before you know it.

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