Going into the college process, I had many expectations, most of which were fueled by media depictions. I thought I would make friends quickly, join lots of clubs, and unleash my inner social being. I thought I would find a place to belong, something that had previously been lacking in my life. Throughout high school, I got good grades without exerting too much effort, so I thought college would be the same way. Absolutely nothing about the reality of my college experience was what I expected. It has not been what I hoped. In some ways, it is better. But in some ways, it is worse. Either way, I believe it is worth it.

1. You're better than you think you are...

When I first started college, I was overwhelmed by the intelligence of my classmates. I was astounded by how profound everyone sounded. I didn't think I had the ability to articulate words of such academic quality. I've never been very talkative in class, and I let my worries prevent me from speaking at all, in most cases. I would do the homework and write the essays, fretting that the professor would think I was dumb. However, all of that stress was for nothing, in the end. The professors I've had have been very understanding about my hesitancy to speak in class, and generally, they have been impressed with me. I'm not dumb. I just find it all too easy to slip into the habit of comparing myself to others.

2. But don't overestimate yourself.

High school may have been quite easy for me, but college has been a different experience. I have to devote much more time and energy to my studies now, and when I don't, it shows. I guess one could say I have been put in my place. While I have exceeded my expectations in some respects, I have also disappointed myself significantly. At first, I would get extremely depressed if I didn't do as well as I expected or hoped for an assignment. But now, I don't think the fact that I have disappointed myself is bad. I think there is a lot to learn from failure. I've gained perspective, and I have learned to face mistakes with humility and hope. Mistakes and failures will never define me, as long as I vow to stand back up and try again.

3. Nothing is as glamorous or exciting as people like to make it out to be.

Everyone says you'll meet your life-long friends in college, that you'll find the people who will stick by your side until the end. I never found my life-long group of friends, or really anyone at all, despite the fact that I have been in college for about a year and a half. Sure, I've met people, but I have not made any lasting friendships. I don't think that means there's anything wrong with me; I just think it means that being social is difficult for me, and there is no magic spell that will allow me to make friends more easily, even in college. I haven't had any awe-inspiring, self-discovering moments. I am still quite uncertain about myself and my future. Overall, much of my experience feels kind of underwhelming to me, though I still believe my education is important and worth the struggle. Everyone's college experience will be different, and it will not always live up to the surreal images that have been planted in our minds.

4. It's okay to admit that things aren't exactly what you wanted them to be.

The fact that my college experience isn't what I wanted it to be does not mean I have failed. It simply means that things are different, and different does not have to be negative. I am open to the idea that perhaps there is some sort of purpose to the things I am experiencing, and there will be something positive that comes out of this.