Life at a huge school is quite different than what I thought it would be. I went to an extremely small high school (approximately 800 students) and it got to be too small after four years. When I looked at colleges, I knew I wanted to go to a HUGE school. I pictured lots of school spirit, amazing football games, lecture halls packed with students, wild parties, etc.
My first taste of life at a big school was the extremely long line of cars waiting to pull into Gate #1. It was move-in day and there were probably more cars waiting to get inside my school than there were vehicles in certain third world countries. But even the wait at the gate was nothing compared to the wait for the elevators inside my new apartment. The elevators were small to begin with and everyone was holding big boxes, so only a couple of people could get in at one time. Once inside the elevator, I discovered that it moved like a snail. I could have probably gotten there faster using the stairs.
Finally, I got all of my personal belongings moved inside my apartment. Then I had to go to the financial aid office to turn in some paperwork. The campus was, needless to say, very big and the map the school sent me looked nothing like the real campus. I got lost, asked for directions, got lost again, asked for directions again and finally found the office. The line inside the office was so long, I couldn't even see the front of it. I got in line thinking, “How long could this possibly take?”
It took TWO AND A HALF HOURS.
The next day, I went to the bookstore to buy my books. There were so many shelves of textbooks that it took me forever to find the ones that I needed. After finally finding all of them, I looked for the cashiers to pay. The line to the cashiers was so long that it took me five minutes to find the end. Another hour was spent waiting in line.
At this point, I thought to myself, "Oh great! I picked a stupid big school to go to and everything involves a long line. I'm going to spend at least half of my undergraduate years waiting in line." I was so frustrated I wanted to cry. But I soon learned that there are smarter ways of doing things. For example, don't move in on the designated move-in day just because the school tells you to. Go to the bookstore right when it opens and the line will be much shorter. And call the financial aid office before you go and see if there is any way you can take care of things without actually going to the office.
Once the school year got underway, I saw that life at a big school had its advantages as well as disadvantages. The football games are great. The school spirit is incredible and just sweeps you into it. The packed lecture halls provide excellent opportunities to make new friends. There are always wild parties going on. Life at a huge school is a big tradeoff. You take the good with the bad and for me, at least, the good definitely outweighs the bad.
This article originally appeared on Making It Count.