There’s one thing that all “how to prepare for college” guides fail to mention. Oddly enough, I find it to be the most critical factor in your preparation: no matter how many articles you read, people you talk to, or beers you shotgun, there is absolutely nothing that can truly “prepare” you for college, short of experiencing it for yourself. Think of it like learning a new language. You can attend class, you can do the homework, and you can ace the final. But it’s is until you completely immerse yourself in a culture where the language is your sole form a communication that you begin to truly understand how it works. This is similar to bonging your first beer.
Now, their advice of alums is valuable, especially if you are attending the same college as them. This does not change one, undeniable fact: the college experience is unique to the individual. There is no “right” way, there is no “wrong” way. There is only your way to experience college. I’m graduating in May. When I went to college four years ago I had an idea in my head about how things were going to go and the type of person I was going to be after college. Would it be terribly hard to believe that I am not at all like the version 18-year-old me thought of four years ago? That’s because 18-year-old me wasn’t even capable of imagining the experiences I’d have, people I’d meet, or obstacles I’d be forced to overcome in my time in college.
So congratulations, the acceptance letters have come. The parents are proud and now the weight lands on your shoulders to decide where you’ll begin your education for the next four years. Here’s some things to consider when you are choosing a college. I can’t make the decision for you—nor should I—but, hopefully you can mull over these varying aspects of the college experience in order to make an informed decision.
This may seem trivial, but the size of a college can greatly affect the sort of experience you’ll have. I go to a school of 31,000+ undergrads and I absolutely love it. In a school of this size I can reach through a large network of friends and can avoid people I don’t want to see altogether. You’ll also notice the schools with a large undergraduate are often the most social. I mean, what would you expect 30,000 18 to 22 year olds to do on the weekends? The biggest perk to going to a college with a large student body, at least to me anyways, is college sports. I fucking love my college basketball team, and we actually have a solid baseball team too. Going to a school and being able to watch some top-notch athletes play their game right on campus is a huge bonus.
Smaller schools have their perks as well—a more intimate campus, better familiarity with your professors, and the like. Smaller schools can make for a different dynamic in the relationships you make in college. Unlike a large school, you are guaranteed to run into the same people over a four-year period whether you wished it or not.
But you definitely face less bureaucracy at smaller colleges, which is a huge plus. Dealing with the administration of a 35,000 person college is somewhere between the 7th and 8th layer of hell.
Maybe this is a no brainer, but sometimes this seems to be criminally overlooked by high school seniors who much prefer to focus on the babes that attend the school or the sick parties they see in the school’s I’m Shmacked video. As hard as it is to believe, there are just something a party video just can’t show you about a college. Listen, hot girls are everywhere, parties in college are everywhere. Make sure you take some time to look over what the class sizes are like at your school, or how the department of your prospective major rank up against others across the country. Make sure you take some time to ensure you’re going to get the education you want. Academics are the reason you are in college, so don’t go to a school that doesn’t offer degrees in the field you want just because you heard their parties are “tyte a$ phuck.” I’m not saying you shouldn’t consider the social aspect of college, but just don’t lose perspective about what’s important in the next four years and you’ll do just fine.
This one’s easy. Make sure you really take a good look at the community surrounding your campus when you visit your school. If you come from California you need to consider the winters you’d have to endure on the east coast. If you come from Connecticut, think long and hard about the omnipresence of a glaring sun in Arizona. Honestly, don’t let location deter you from a school you really want to attend, but you should certainly prepare yourself for the adjustments you’ll have to make.
Greek life isn’t for everyone. Let me repeat that one more time, greek life isn’t for everyone. And you know what? That’s okay. I know plenty of people, some of whom I consider good friends, who made out just fine in college without being a part of a fraternity. There are plenty of other clubs, sports, honoraries, etc. that you can join and have an excellent experience amongst like-minded people.
That being said, joining greek life was incredibly rewarding for me and my time in college. You see, I go to a school where greek life is huge. This isn’t the case at other schools, so I highly suggest researching what the fraternity experience is like at your prospective schools. If you were like me, and never even considered greek life before attending college I highly suggest doing so. I can only speak on my own experiences but, from my time in greek life, I have seen that the awful stereotypes are the exceptions (though those exceptions often end up on BroBible for the stupid, hilarious shit they do).
Fraternities come in all shapes and sizes. I have met people from so many different backgrounds, different ideals, and different goals who are all able to come together under a few like minded principals. Greek life also acts as a launching pad for all other extra curricular activities in college. You’re bound to meet guys that are part of this club, or that honorary who want to get you involved as well. I’m not saying a necessity, but I would remiss if I didn’t say you should consider it.
Luke Johnsen is a weekly contributor to BroBible.