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UNC Freshman: College Expectations v. Realities

Updated: Jul 18

Hi! I’m Thomas Huo, a former graduate of Ardrey Kell High School and a current rising sophomore at UNC-Chapel Hill (as of summer 2022). I am planning on doing a business and compsci double major. I enjoy playing and listening to music as well as spending time with my close friends. In my free time, I play video games, climb things, and discuss pointless topics with those who are willing to listen.


College is often referred to as the “best four years of your life.” For many people, it's the first time when they leave their parents and experience the freedom of an adult yet are unburdened by the responsibilities of a real adult, such as working a job every day. As a freshman at UNC-Chapel Hill, I had a great first-year experience, despite various setbacks and obstacles I faced along the way.


Friendships in College

On my move-in day, I was very nervous. I had never lived away from my family for an extended period of time, and it was worrying to think about living by myself. However, these worries soon left me when I began to meet my suitemates. All of them already knew each other, and out of the other seven people I was living with, I only knew one of them. Luckily, I quickly began to grow close to them, and they were the main reason my freshman year was so enjoyable. They would also become the primary friend group that I hung out with and did everything with, from going to the Craige Gaming Arena to working out in the gyms on campus. We never had any drama or conflict between us, and that was something I greatly appreciated about them.


Learning in College

Throughout elementary school, middle school, and high school, my teachers would always say the same thing about the next level of schooling. It would be something along the lines of, “You need to be ready for middle school/high school. Nobody is going to hold your hand, and you're going to have much more freedom.” The truth is this never really felt true to me until college. All throughout my K-12 years, I was able to do well in school just by paying attention in class, not typically needing too much outside studying or assistance. In college, this didn’t work out for me. Historically, I had considered myself decent at math, but after taking several college math classes, my test scores suffered as I realized I could not study the way that I always had. It required a lot more discipline and choosing to study in my free time, as homework typically did not encompass all the information we needed to know. The workloads were not that heavy either, yet the concepts were more difficult. I had to learn things from the textbook by myself, as the lectures were short and only acted as a brief overview of the ideas. However, I was able to get used to this dynamic more during the second semester and had better time management.


Freedom in College

Another very enjoyable aspect of college is the freedom. I didn’t have my parents telling me how I should spend my time, nor anyone nagging me about my schedule. I had complete control over what I did. I could walk to wherever I wanted, eat whatever I wanted, and do things at any time I wanted. At first, I relished this, but after realizing how bad my sleep schedule had become, I tried to create a schedule for myself. This took me a while to get used to but eventually was beneficial in the long run. I got sick multiple times throughout freshman year as well, which definitely made my schedule hard to follow, but I would always manage eventually.

It is very hard to imagine the freedom of college until you experience it yourself. It revealed to me how bad my time management was, and I learned a lot about myself. If I had any advice to give to any rising college freshmen, it would be to come in with an open mind. Have an open mind not only to those around you and to new experiences, but also to yourself. Be willing to learn and change your habits, as what might have worked in the past might not work in college. And most importantly, try to have fun. Don’t make your entire college life about your academics and studying but try to do new things. Enjoy the freedom you have and spend time with your friends. Writing this now in the summer before my sophomore year, I am so excited to be going back to college soon. I made wonderful memories during my first year and am looking forward to making many more during the next three.



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