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What It’s Like to Be a College Student: Know Before You Apply

Updated: Feb 22

Preparing for college can be hard when you don’t know what it’s like to be a college student in the first place. Knowing what college life is like can really help make your application shine – whether that’s in your personal essay or during a college interview. Below are a few thoughts on the college experience that are useful to know for your college admissions process.


Academics will take up a big part of your time in college. What courses you take and how many you take is largely dependent on your specific school and its requirements. Some schools will require you to fulfill general education requirements and a certain amount of electives. Doing an online search of “insert school name” followed by “course requirements” should lead you to useful online resources that give you a glimpse of what a college-level course load looks like.

The major you choose in college often dictates the types of classes you take, and these classes tend to dive into specific subjects with far greater depth than what you may be used to in high school. Each school’s online website will once again be a useful tool for you to use. For example, the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) has an academic page on their website that will let you further explore specialized academic pathways and related courses to take for certain majors. Getting a grasp of what you might want to major in now will help make your college application shine because you can write about your interests more specifically and vividly. For more on deciding your major, you can also read College Torch’s blog post series on selecting majors.

Student Life: Clubs and Organizations

Aside from academics, student life is another major component of the college experience. Being a college student means having the chance to become involved in all sorts of activities, whether that’s joining a sports team, pursuing artistic interests, or joining a professional club.

Each college will have its own unique set of clubs for you to join. Doing a web search with “college and/or university” followed by “clubs and organizations” will give you a good sense of all the groups you can join as a student. For instance, UCLA has an entire page on its website dedicated to its various clubs and organizations. By perusing this page, you can begin to get a feel for what sort of things you want to get involved in on campus.

Envisioning yourself as a student and thinking through what clubs you’ll want to join will make answering the commonly asked college application question, “Why this college and/or university?” much easier. Don’t forget to write about those specific clubs in your essays! By preemptively thinking about your life on campus, you’ll naturally get a better idea of why you want to apply to certain colleges.