University expectations vs. reality

Let's get real.
Let's get real.

Starting university can be one of the most exciting feelings for a fresher. There's a whole different world out there waiting to be experienced and explored. 

Take it from someone who's been through it before, it definitely isn't all sunshine and roses and a lot of expectations you have for university life may not necessarily meet the reality.

I'm not saying that all students are the same or experience a lot of similar things, but many of them do, and that's okay. At the end of the day, it really is what you make of it.

What's something you learnt about university that challenged your expectations of it? Send us your comments and we could publish them. Do let us know if you'd like to remain anonymous. 

University expectations vs. reality:

Waking up for class


Waking up bright and early for class, feeling eager and refreshed. Today you'll be on time for your 8am! 



Hitting snooze on your alarm for the forth time, until you really can't anymore. You accidentally hit "dismiss" instead of snooze and wake up 10 minutes before class starts. Maybe you'll be on time for your 10am? 

My advice: Don't worry, it happens. If there's one thing I could tell you, it's to never take your sleep for granted. Take your vitamins and make sure you're refreshed the next day or you'll have trouble waking up and concentrating throughout the day. 

Also see: University freshers' guide to navigating campus



You're going to work hard and be productive this year – you promise! 

You're going to continuously keep up with all the work you have to do. 


So you left some things for the last minute and now you're feeling overwhelmed and more than slightly exhausted. We've all been there, despising our past selves for not starting our work sooner. 


My advice: Actually start doing little bits of work where you can. If you're not someone who spends hours with their books, take it one step at a time and spare a half hour here and there during the day to do some work so you're not overwhelmed when you eventually need to complete it. 

Spend some time in the library, even if it's just 2 or 3 days a week. 



University is one big jol, loads of fun to be had. All your weekends are going to look exactly like this:


Hello broke student life! Think you're going to party again? What about that textbook you have to pay for?

Also, it's catch-up time. All those hours you spent during the week lazing around and watching YouTube videos means you need to spend your weekends working on all the things that are due.  

My advice: There's nothing wrong with having fun while studying. In fact, you should be having fun, it's important to find a healthy balance.

Going partying doesn't automatically mean you're not a good student, but if you're not someone who's good with balance, just know when to make time for what.

Also see: Understanding university grading, credits, Dean's list and more



First term is going well so all terms will go well, your head will be above the water. You might even keep this energy for the rest of the year. 


... and then second term and mid-year exams hit. 


My advice: The first term is usually a lot more relaxed than the others, so just mentally prepare yourself. Obviously, your workload is what you make of it.

People at campus 


People at campus are going to maintain the high school mentality and be involved in your business. There's going to be some sort of social hierarchy. 


Nobody cares, and it's the best thing! Do your thing. Most people have their head glued to their phones or are too busy focusing on themselves to care about your life. There may be some sort of social hierarchy at certain universities, but pay no mind to it, some people clearly have a little growing up to do. 

My advice: Don't be afraid to make friends but leave the cliquey high school mentality behind. University is the time to meet new and different kinds of people so don't be afraid to do exactly that. 

The night before an exam


You're in bed nice and early, ready to be well-rested and tackle that exam. 


It's 1:42am and you're doing the best you can, really wondering why you can't sleep with your book under your pillow and have the information seep into your brain via osmosis or something. 

My advice: I mean, you decide which situation sounds better here (hint: it's not cramming). Time management, people! 

Talking to your classmates after a test 


Everyone wrote a great paper and you'll move on from the test and have a good day.


"Was your answer also '57' for that question?"

You, who got "Ostrich": 

My advice: When you're done with your exam, don't talk about it and walk away from people do. What's done is done and you don't need that kind of negativity in your life. 

Also see: Tips for surviving on a student budget

Campus outfits 


Every day is your time to shine and you're going to pull up to campus with the most fire 'fits. 


Soon enough you won't care about what you wear, as long as you're clothed.

My advice: Some universities are generally more stylish than others, but wear whatever makes you comfortable. University is the time of self-expression after all. My only piece of advice is to wear comfortable shoes because you'll most likely end up doing a lot of walking.  

Homework and assignments


All your tutorial homework is prepared and you're ready to share all answers in class and join the open discussions.


You may need to borrow someone's tut homework from another class every now and then or sit quietly in tuts and avoid eye contact with your tutor.

My advice: You can't sponge off others forever, also, tuts are there to help you learn. Start making the effort. 

Chat back

What's something you learnt about university that challenged your expectations of it? Send us your comments and we could publish them. Do let us know if you'd like to remain anonymous. 

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Read more: 

Preparing your assignments? University referencing guide for beginners

Bursaries, scholarships & loans: Here's how to fund your studies

Advice for university students, from interns

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