Freshman Focus: 6 Times I Was Proven Wrong About the “College Experience” In the First Quarter

This article was originally published in the print version of the Northwestern Chronicle!

Before I came to college, my expectations were molded by what my friends told me, what I saw on social media, and what I learned from watching girly movies. I heard stories of late-night pizza and ramen, saw pictures of lavish formals, and learned that sororities were selective and exclusionary.

I also thought that this first quarter was representative of the other eleven or so quarters that would follow, when in reality I may have been duped by the expectations formed in these past few weeks.

As every single day of this quarter came and went, another assumption was de-bunked and I found myself feeling more and more at home.

1) I live in Elder, considered one of the “most social” dorms on campus. If it wanted to advertise itself, Elder’s pamphlet would boast its bustling nightlife that just seems to stretch late into the earliest of hours. Here, a 9AM class doesn’t scare anyone from going out on a weeknight. Slightly phased by this, I asked myself if I was holding myself back, and not having enough fun.

But where I live is a temporary decision that indicates nothing about the life that I will continue living on this campus. My experience up North biases the perceived environment in which I am living every day. I swear, the campus is divided between the North and South! At least my room’s at the end of the hall; I could get some shut-eye if I really wanted it.

2) I’m the only freshman in my discussion group for my political science class. Every week we sit in a room and present our opinions about current issues, applying concepts taught in the lecture. Everyone draws from their personal experience. “I interned for Bloomberg,” says one. “I spent my summer on Capitol Hill!” says another. “What have you done, Catherine?”

“I worked in a bubble tea shop.”

I feel behind, and as though I need to start figuring out the rest of my life before the deadline for winter quarter registration arrives.

But switching majors is a common occurrence, and in fact, my Peer Advisor has reportedly been in every single Northwestern undergraduate school except for Bienen. If he can do it, I can too! It’s okay to explore your opinions and re-evaluate. At the same time, the direction that you follow in college says little about what you’ll spend your time doing later in life.

3) How are memories made? They can be immortalized in filtered photos posted to Facebook, taken at huge parties where the music is bumpin’ and the sun is nowhere to be found, but they can also be made during casual lunches in the dining hall or on weekday nights in the lounge. If we approached everyday like we approached weekends and holidays, we might be able to appreciate our lives much more instead of always waiting.

4) I don’t need an excuse to stay in. No, I’m not sick. Nor do I have a midterm tomorrow, or any homework to do, really. I just feel like sitting in my dorm and watching TV. Is there something wrong with that? I don’t want your pity or your sad looks; our time here shouldn’t be divided into two extremes (going out or doing work) playing on a continuous loop. People spend their time differently. Some sleep, some play video games, some go to the gym, and some go out to party. We need to respect everyone’s decisions.

5) I can’t imagine my life being any different than it is right now. But I’ll soon start new classes and move into a different building…is two months really a long enough time to get to know someone? I’ve discovered the “first quarter friend” phenomenon, in which people just latch onto whoever they can find (students from their PA group, dorm, or classes) and stick with them until they find who they’re really meant to be with. While this phenomenon is valid, it’s not a universal truth. It’s entirely possible to have found great friends in your first quarter and to want to stick with them. Only time will tell!

6) I want to be friends with everyone, but I can’t. First quarter is like the drying period of cement. You want to reach out to everyone before it sets and makes it nearly impossible to make new friends, but the reality is that you can’t and shouldn’t have to be friends with everyone. You will make acquaintances, and you will even make enemies. Accept that! You’ll find where you’re supposed to be in due time.



  1. babsspeak

    Wonderful read! You’re such a talanted writer! I can totally relate to feeling “behind,” except in a different way. My high school didn’t have the best teachers, so when I’d be sitting in the lounge in college studying with people about one subject or another, people would be like, “Oh, I remember that from high school! We even got to go to *insert famous location* to hear *Insert important person’s name* discuss it!” & I would just think, “I didn’t even know this concept existed!”
    Also, I’m totally the person who loves to hang out & watch T.V. in my down time- I hate feeling like I have to justify it, too! Lol


    • catdiggedydog

      Thanks so much for reading! And yes, I definitely feel that sometimes we compare ourselves to others way too much than is healthy. Instead, we should focus on our own individual growth. There will always be other people that are more ahead of us. If we look to adopt their productive habits and view them in a healthy light as role models who also are imperfect and make mistakes, we are well on our way to our own success. :)


  2. Pingback: Did you miss me? | Catherine Zhang

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