Why My Expectations of College Were Wrong

There is a lot of anticipation that comes with going to college. You spend hours upon hours writing your essays for your applications, having endless conversations with family and friends about your future plans, and spending months waiting for your acceptance letters to arrive in the mail.

When I finally decided where I wanted to go and settled into the idea of attending Cal Poly, there was a sense of relief in knowing where I was heading. But over the summer prior to college, the nerves slowly but constantly built back up. I had many expectations for myself going into college. But when I got there, I quickly figured out the reality.

When I came to Cal Poly, I thought I was going to be a different person. A lot of people talk about having a fresh start when coming to college, and how that allows you to do whatever you want and be whoever you want. I had this misconstrued idea that going to college was automatically going to change me. I thought that simply being in San Luis Obispo was going to be enough.

But that’s not true. What really defines the first year of college is experiences. I only recently came to this conclusion after going back home for three months during summer. I realized how different of a person I had become after really immersing myself in my first year of college.

My fall quarter of my first year was relatively uneventful. I got acclimated to living in the dorms, made some new friends, and figured out how to navigate my way around the school. But going into winter quarter I knew that I wanted to branch out. Even though I knew it was going to make me uncomfortable and force me out of my bubble, I decided to rush for a business fraternity on campus: Alpha Kappa Psi.

I had no idea what I was getting myself into, but it quickly became one of the most defining experiences of my first year. Even during the week of rush, I learned a lot. I came on the first day to simply see what the fraternity was about, and it pulled me in. I went to every day of rush, and learned about building a professional profile. I started paying attention to my resume and my LinkedIn, and was introduced to the idea of networking by simply trying to form connections with the brothers of the fraternity.

Then during pledging, I became close friends with the other pledges as I learned how to maintain a balance between work and extracurriculars and figure out how to organize my priorities. It was the first place in college where I felt like I was committing all of my effort, and felt a huge personal investment into the process. On top of my other involvements with organizations on campus,  I was learning how I wanted to define myself as a student, friend, and aspiring professional.

Prior to college when people were telling me about starting anew and having a fresh start, I interpreted it in the wrong way. I thought that simply being in college was going to change me. And don’t get me wrong — naturally, it did by putting me in a new environment. But what evokes real change for yourself is learning what it means to put yourself out there. It means having experiences that introduce you to people and ideas that are different from what you’d normally surround yourself with.

I highly encourage you to take the time to figure out what that is for you. It won’t always be easy or automatic, and it might take a bit of trial and error. But when you find something that really challenges you and encourages you to grow, you’ll know.


Thanks Calvin Lin (@calvinlinphoto) for the featured photo!

ALSO — If you go to Cal Poly, Alpha Kappa Psi is having rush next week! Come check it out and meet the brothers. 🙂

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