What Is College Life Like?

Wednesday, May 3, 2023

Group of college students talking on campus after class

For many young adults, college offers the first taste of independence, an opportunity to make lifelong friendships, and a chance to learn important life skills. However, college life isn’t the same for everyone. Every student will have a unique college experience, but certain elements of campus life are universal.

What Is College Like?

Academics are obviously the main reason for attending college, but there is more to it than scholarly pursuits. You have the chance to explore various options for your future; participate in clubs, societies, sports, and other extracurricular activities; meet people from all walks of life; gain valuable skills and experience; and expand your worldview. These are aspects of college that most students, regardless of background, can experience and benefit from.

What Is the Best Part of College Life?

The best part of college life for many students is growing more independent. College will expand your independence whether you live at home and commute to campus, live in one of the residence halls, or share campus-area housing with other students. You control your own schedule, learn effective time management skills, and decide how you want to live your life.

What Does a Typical College Day Look Like?

A typical college day will look a bit different for everyone, but most students are kept pretty busy. In addition to attending classes, most college students need to work in study time, meetings with professors and classmates, library visits, meals in the dining halls, extracurriculars, and other activities. And this is in addition to having a social life and trying to get some sleep! Learning time management strategies is the key to handling such a busy schedule successfully.

What Is College Like Academically?

This may vary by school, but a standard college curriculum has three components: general education courses, electives, and the courses you complete for your major. You typically complete your general education courses during the first two years of your undergraduate program—these classes are meant to provide basic knowledge in a broad range of disciplines. Electives are courses you often choose purely out of interest.

The courses you take for your major are more specialized and are often specific to your area of interest. For example, you could major in mathematics with a concentration in data science. This means you will take a range of math courses, but your program will emphasize coursework and research in data science. You will generally focus on completing coursework for your major during your junior and senior years.

Extracurriculars in College

Most colleges offer a wide variety of extracurricular activities, so you’re sure to find something that aligns with your interests. You may find opportunities to join intramural sports teams, student government, ROTC, marching band, community service organizations, clubs, employment and internships, arts, hobbies, and more. Participating in extracurricular activities can enhance your social life and also give you skills and experience that are valuable to future employers.

Learn more about college sports and athletic recruiting.

Campus Life 

Emerson Dorm2

Each school has its own policy about who can live on campus. It’s not uncommon for first-year students and sophomores to live on campus, while juniors and seniors often live off campus. International students may have other housing options depending on the school. If you live in a dorm, you will likely have a roommate, communal bathrooms, and a resident advisor—typically an older student—who is there to assist you.

Some schools offer other types of living arrangements, but dorms are the most common. Living on campus gives you even more opportunities to meet new people and get involved in activities, even if it’s just hosting a game night in your room or a study group in the lobby.

Sororities and Fraternities

Many colleges have sororities and fraternities, which can be a great way to meet like-minded peers and get involved in the community. However, being involved in Greek life can be time consuming, plus there are membership dues and expenses for travel and events. If you’re interested in Greek life, it can be helpful to research each sorority or fraternity to determine which one is the best fit for you.


Many students enjoy their college experience, but they also look forward to the day when their academic success pays off. Your graduation ceremony is perhaps the most memorable moment during your college years, but it can also be a bit chaotic. You may have to deal with large crowds, and you will likely be busy guiding your family around campus. Plus, all your friends will be busy, too, so you may not get to see them much at this time.

You may also feel a lot of different emotions. This is perfectly normal! It’s important to take a few moments to reflect on your accomplishments and enjoy the experience.

What Is Life After College Like?

College graduates have endless options after completing their degrees. You can pursue a career, continue your education by going to grad school, or even   Life after college comes with a different set of responsibilities, and you may start to feel a lot of the same pressures that many adults do. However, it is also an exciting time filled with opportunities and possibilities.

Read our job search tips.

Get Inspired by Our IvyWise Scholars

Preparing for college can be a daunting task, but it can be helpful to learn how your peers are navigating the process. These stories from our IvyWise scholars will hopefully inspire and motivate you to meet the challenges of applying to college so you can enjoy campus life and all it has to offer.

If you need expert guidance along the way, we’re here to help. Schedule an Initial Consultation with an IvyWise counselor.


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