When I was a senior in high school, the refrigerator at my parents’ house was cluttered with letters from admissions offices of various universities across the country, hung up with cute magnets and painter’s tape. At the time that these schools reached out to me, with acceptances of admission and scholarship offers and promises of free iPads, I was so hung up on getting into my dream school—the school that I now attend—that I refused to consider any other offers.
I was accepted to my dream school at the end of February, considerably late in the world of College Admission. I totally ugly cried when I got my acceptance letter. In early August, I moved out of my family’s suburbia home and into my spacious, sunlit dorm in the city.
My first semester of college was, in one word, rocky. I had trouble finding where I fit in. I felt guilty over how much everything cost. I could count the number of friends I had on one hand. My classes were hard, like really hard. I envied how much fun my friends were having at their schools. I was miserable.
Not only was I having trouble adjusting to being in college, but I felt let down by my dream school, the Academia Promised Land, the place I’d been dreaming of since I was a child. I felt like Elle Woods in her early days at Harvard when everyone looks at her funny and nobody takes her seriously.
College is not like how it looks in the media. Parties are less MTV-looking and more dark, dingy and kind of awkward. Jobs and internships don’t just fall into your lap. Finals week is less studying productively with coffee and more crying with mac-and-cheese. You may find your friend-soulmates and your perfect boyfriend right away, or you might have to just wait a little while like I did.
My dream school was not going to adjust to me and all my expectations. I was the one who needed to adjust. After that lonely first semester, I realized that most of the things that were making me unhappy were things that I could control.
I changed my major. I joined a sorority, where I met my wonderful best friends that every college movie and TV show had promised me. I left my lowly cashier job and took on internships and freelance editorial and social media positions. I got a cat! Yes, my dream school is amazing, but it wasn’t going to just immediately give me everything I wanted like I expected it to.
When I started at my school, I was so wrapped up in what I thought my college experience should be like that I didn’t realize that I was experiencing it exactly how I was intended to. The universe had guided me to my dream school, and it was then up to me to find my way.
Image via Arianna Torres