College Culture Shock

by Diane Nivens 2 years ago in college

What High School Students Should Know about College

College Culture Shock
There's a huge culture shock for many new college students about the function of classrooms. In high school, you need permission for everything: to go to the bathroom, to get a drink, to use your computer, etc. High school has a rigid structure that does not allow for deviation. College is... a little bit different. Here are some things to prepare for:

Using the bathroom

If you think you need to raise your hand and announce to the class that you need to pee in order for the professor to grant you the power to relieve yourself, you are mistaken. Not only are you mistaken, but you will be looked at funny and possibly even be the recipient of a rude joke. Just go to the bathroom, but, ya know, be quiet about it.


Yeah, you can eat in the classroom now. Of course, this is also in part because you don't have an outlined lunch time in your schedule like you did in high school. There are a few unspoken rules about having food in the classroom.
  1. Nothing loud. If the packaging is loud, open it before class. If it is crunchy, cut it up into bit-sized pieces beforehand and eat it strategically.
  2. Nothing smelly. No problem wanting to eat a salad and be healthy, but if you think your raspberry vinaigrette is okay...think again. Salad, okay. Smelly salad dressing, not okay. It stinks up the classroom and everyone will hate you. I speak from experience. Some girl I hated ate her raspberry vinaigrette salad before class started, didn't finish it, threw it in the trash can, and everyone hated her for the rest of the semester. Part of that was for other reasons besides the food thing, but she was an inconsiderate bitch and stinking up he classroom was the turning point.
  3. Clean up after yourself. It's just rude if you don't and gross for the next person. It takes only moments to sweep crumbs off the desk and to grab your trash as you leave the room. Also, if you spill, go get some paper towels and clean it up.
  4. Chew with your damn mouth closed! No one will care if you have a deviated septum or not. It's annoying and gross. Close your fucking mouth.

Electronic use

While this one is a bit situational, you can fuck-off on your computer and no one will care. Some professors may have certain rules about their classroom, but overall, most won't care if you're on your computer because of the huge shift in electronic books and homework. However, again, there are unspoken rules.
  1. Turn phones and computers to silent. No one wants to hear the bonk noise from you texting your bestie. However, fair warning about phone use: some professors may actually kick you out of their class if you're on your phone. One reason is listed in rule number three.
  2. If you're going to play games on your computer during class, or Facebook, or whatever, then you need to relinquish any prime classroom "real estate." Prime real estate is any seat in the front three rows, especially those towards the center. The reason you give up these seats and sit in the back is because your screen will be a distraction to everyone behind you. Everyone paid or borrowed a lot of money to be in there, so don't take away from their time in the classroom.
  3. No Snapchat or any sort of photos/video during class. This is actually a legal thing. The goings-on inside a classroom are often protected by a combination of copyright and privacy laws (yeah, really). Also, it's just annoying.


If you feel like skipping, you can just skip. No one will really care. You don't have to call anyone. It is a courtesy to shoot your professor an email for small classes in case they were planning group work that day. Overall, though, it's not a big deal. One word of warning: many professors take attendance and give points for participation, so don't make it a habit.


There is going to be a ton of it. You will actually have to do it. The pace of college is much faster than that of high school. Take the amount of work you do in one entire school year in one class in high school and condense it down to 16 weeks. That is how fast college moves. Often, much faster.

How much homework is a lot of homework? Some examples:

  1. I took a Shakespeare class and we covered 10 plays in 16 weeks. We never read the text in class. We were expected to have read the complete play before we began discussions.
  2. I had an online class that assigned 600 pages of academic reading every two weeks. FOR ONE CLASS.
  3. I've had to buy upwards of seven textbooks for a single class. And we read each of them in their entirety.

You're not going to care about your appearance anymore

Someone always somehow maintains their flawless appearance the entire semester. Frankly, I have no idea how those people do it, but they are definitely in the minority. Go ahead and try for a few weeks. Promise yourself that you'll pluck your eyebrows every weekend and have perfect winged eyeliner every morning. By midterms, you'll be so swamped with homework that you'll begin sacrificing showers for sleep. You'll go to class in your pajamas from the night before at least three times, with your unbrushed hair wrangled into a bun. You'll just throw on some deodorant, toss a hoodie over your wrinkled shirt, and chew some gum because you don't have time to brush your teeth. These days will usually come after pulling an all-nighter writing papers. At this point, you're not looking for anyone to ask you out because you don't have time to groom yourself and you can't afford the time away from studies anyway.

Class size

You might actually have classes with 200 people in them. You may also have classes with eight people in them. Generally, gen-eds have the giant classes because those are the ones everyone has to take. As you get more advanced in your degree and classes become more specific, your class size will dwindle and you'll start seeing the same faces much more often. Make friends with your classmates. Helping one another out is how you will all survive.

Movie Myths about College

Myth #1Everyone parties all the time.False. While there are some people who will try to party every night, the smart people don't. If you're partying, you're not studying or doing your homework and are definitely going to fail. There are some key party weekends, though, after midterms, during break, and after finals.

Myth #2Co-ed bathrooms and showers.That doesn't exist, despite what Boy Meets World told you.

Myth #3The professor dating their students.Your professors are not flirting with you. They will also not party with you. That is how they lose their jobs and you are not worth losing their livelihood.

Myth #4Passing a class based on cash.You cannot bribe your professors to pass you. Again, that's how they lose their job and you are not worth losing their job over. Also, cheating is taken very seriously. Like, plagiarism can get you kicked out. Cheating isn't worth the consequences of getting caught and they've gotten really good at catching people.

These are some of the biggest shocks most incoming freshmen have. I hope this list helps you know what to expect and avoid some key blunders. Good luck in your college years!

Diane Nivens
Diane Nivens
Read next: The Unconventional College Life
Diane Nivens

Just trying to find my place in this big world. I've got a lot to say if you've got the time to listen.

Twitter: @DianeNivens87

See all posts by Diane Nivens