What to Expect in College (Things I Wish I’d Known)

November 12, 2019

Dear High School Seniors (future Houghtoners?),

Hi! This is Emily from Houghton University. Whether Houghton is the college for you is a question only you can answer, but I hope you enjoy yourself if you come for a visit.

College is a very different experience from high school, and it can be a big adjustment if you don’t know what to expect. Here are some things I wish I knew before starting college.

You’ll do a lot of writing

Almost every class you take will require some kind of writing, but not all college writing is the same. I’ve described two main types you will need to be ready for below:

Academic Papers

My top tip for preparing for college classes? Practice writing more than two thousand words. This will benefit you in two ways:

  1. It will help you to start thinking critically so you can best express your own thoughts and opinions on what you’ve read.
  2. It will help you get used to the time it takes to write longer papers.

I wish that my high school had pushed the number of words for our essays up to at least one thousand. I believe I would have been much better prepared to write those first papers in college.

Reflection Papers

Another type of writing you will do in college is reflecting on how something that you are learning in class relates to your own life. Often you will be required to write about something important to you, or about an event that influenced you in some way. My suggestion is to have some of these things in mind when you enter college. That way, even if you don’t like to write, you have a head start. At the very least, brace yourself, so you aren’t surprised when you get your first assignments!

It’s OK if you don’t know yet

College is a time to figure out what you want for your future. Even if you already have an idea what career path you want to pursue, my advice to you is take your time, and think carefully. Make sure you try new things and explore all of the opportunities—you just never know what you will discover. Something I say to myself often is “Pretend that you do not know anything and always start as a beginner.” I tell myself this because even if I know something, there is a chance that there is more to the picture I don’t yet see.

One of the great benefits of attending a Christian college like Houghton is that you won’t have to figure everything out on your own. Our class sizes are small, and our professors take a personal interest in their students. It is not hard to find someone to talk to—we have caring, devoted faculty and staff members who take time out of their schedules to answer questions and support us in our questions and struggles.

What about a social life?

For the Extroverts

You might be wondering what there is to do at a small Christian college situated in a rural setting. When I arrived at Houghton, I was surprised to find out just how many events and activities take place on campus every week. Swing dancing, Nerf wars, SPOT, Koinonia, orchestra, Purple and Gold week (a week of competitive activities all around campus), swimming, intramurals, open mic night, and other goings-on are just a few examples of activities that might satisfy your interests.

For the Introverts

As a Christian college, Houghton values the concept of living together in community—but that doesn’t mean that everybody is WITH everybody else all of the time. Community can also mean one-on-one conversations, so if you are more of an introvert, then that’s okay, too! We all have a different way of going about things, and building meaningful relationships slowly is okay. No one should feel pressured into large-group socializing if they are more comfortable in small groups.

Houghton has room for all types of personalities, and they know how to express it in subtle but effective ways. For example, my RA from freshman year would plan parties just for the residents of our floor. It was relaxing—having a small party and doing something fun.

My prayer for you

For me, adjusting to college has been wonderful and nerve-racking at the same time!  I am a sophomore now, and I am so glad I chose Houghton as my “special place.” I pray and hope you find yours.


Emily Pierce