College Life: Expectation vs Reality

We’re always told that there’s a giant leap between secondary-level education and third-level education. We finish our Leaving Cert with high notions of what our new lives as adults are going to be like, only to have these dreams crushed as we walk through the huge doors of our new colleges. Whatever you’re expecting I can almost guarantee it’s not going to be right! It’s time to put a few things straight.

The clothes situation

I think it’s safe to say everyone found relief in ditching the ol’ school uniform and saying goodbye to those dreary grey trousers and sweaty jumper. Every sixth year student across the country says at least once “I can’t wait to get out of this thing”. There is something liberating about being allowed to wear whatever you want. Well, there is for a while.

That feeling of freedom lasts about one week. It soon becomes apparent that no matter how full your wardrobe is, it is not full enough, unless you have a walk-in wardrobe the size of Phoenix Park. You’ll wake up some mornings thinking “Crap, I’ve nothing to wear,” as you toss aside all the clothes you wore in the last three weeks. By the end of the first month you’ll be campaigning for new college uniforms.


I have had the Theory Test Guide in my house for at least a year. I’ll also admit I had this huge notion that once I graduated, I’d get myself a nice wee car to ferry myself to college. A very adult move. My friends believed they’d be pulling into the car parks of DCU and UCD in shiny black cars with the Drive soundtrack blaring.

Unfortunately, unless you’re rich, this is never going to happen. Instead, you will be enjoying the cramped, sweaty public transport system. You could always end up cycling for half an hour or walking double-time in the hopes of actually getting to class, all the while cars speed by, blissfully unaware of your plight.

Party central

Thanks to modern day TV and movies, everyone thinks college life is one big party; cheap booze, more pizza than you can stuff your face with and late, late nights. Everyone thinks they’re going to have amazing social lives surrounded by hordes of people. Now they’re in college there will be less work and no sitting at home doing homework. Everything will be a breeze. Of course it will.

No it won’t. People party for the first three weeks. Instead of wild antics you will trudge through your front door and collapse onto the sofa. On said sofa you’ll spend hours trying to re-energise. You’ll find yourself in the library more than you thought possible, with more work and more study. You heard college was easy? It was a lie.


Maybe you’ll enter college as a virgin, expecting your first time to be the greatest night of your life. You’ll make an instant connection with someone who has the most interesting personality, the hottest body you’ve ever seen; practically a demi-god and you’ll meet one of these every night. If you’re lucky you’ll meet one twice a day! You’ll live and breathe sex for the next four years!

Sadly, the reality is your first-time will probably be uncomfortable and messy; you probably won’t be that good, or good at all for that matter. You won’t be surrounded by the sexiest people on earth. There’ll be no Channing Tatums or Kate Uptons where you’re going. You’ll learn the hard way those steamy romantic scenes you see in movies are just that, scenes in movies.

It’s easy in hindsight to laugh and roll your eyes at the ridiculous notions we all have when we start into our third level lives. College life isn’t a walk in the park but it isn’t like a prison either. It’s an enjoyable time, you make a lot of new friends and you learn a lot of new things, but let’s be realistic about it.