Great Expectations and The Hidden Reality of University – OurWarwick

Great Expectations and The Hidden Reality of University

I’ll start with a disclaimer; I haven’t read either of the books mentioned in this post’s title. It just seemed like a good way to make a bold opening statement.

The truth probably isn’t nearly as dramatic as I’ve tried to make it sound either, but there were some aspects of university that differed significantly from what I had been expecting.

Most of my expectations, it must be said, had come from fiction. Books, TV and film had created an image of university in my head but I thought it might be worth highlighting a couple of places where the Hollywood glamour isn’t quite as accurate as filmmakers would have you (or me at least) believe.


  • One of my biggest fears coming to university was that I would be left out because I didn’t like to drink. Most people I asked about it offered meaningless reassurances but I was still convinced that I would be missing out all the time that my flatmates were drinking and I was just being the quiet guy they all lived with.
  • I’ve come to realise that I jump to conclusions far too quickly and, as such, I assumed I knew exactly (or had a fairly good idea of) what people would be like on each different degree course.
  • It seems like one of, if not the most common, university stereotype that you will be in debt by the end of the first week and this was constantly on my mind leading up to the start of term one.
  • Having moved to Warwick from a relatively small school, I was quite concerned about just becoming a face in the crowd and having no one to turn to. Everyone emphasises the independence of university and I took that to mean isolation.
  • Then, sort of tying into the idea of being left out for not drinking, I thought I might just not fit in with anyone. I feared I might differ from people on my course, people in my flat and everyone in every society.


  • DrinkingSo it turns out that not drinking is not a problem. I should have listened to everyone who tried to reassure me because, yes there are some events that are heavily drinking based, but every society will organise sober events and I found that my flatmates were all very considerate and always looked to be inclusive.
  • Preconceived ideas of peopleIn the media, we do tend to be fed a lot of stereotypes about the different types of people who go to study arts, humanities, sciences or anything else. While these are true in some cases, I’ve constantly been astonished by the diversity of people and the interests they have even among people on my course alone.Ignore any ideas you have of who people might be and make sure you give everyone a chance!
  • DebtWhen all the student bank accounts are advertising how big an overdraft you can have and you hear horror stories of the amount of money some people can spend on a night out, I feel like this one was a reasonable concern. That doesn’t mean that you are destined to fall into debt though. With only a small amount of planning and consideration, you can be savvy, not spend ludicrously but also still find the funds to make the most of your uni experience.
  • Becoming anonymousUniversity, in my case, is much bigger than the school environment I was used to. However, unlike school, you’re not just one big class in quite the same way.I found that being split up into different departments for studying, different societies for different interests and having a group of people to live with, I always had people to approach. In my department we each have personal tutors and I’m glad to know that mine knows who I am and that I could go to him with any concern, however minor it may be.
  • Not fitting inIf anything, this is the one I wish I could reverse the most. There was no need to fear and, in fact, I think it’s easier to fit in at university than at school.The size of a university may make it seem daunting but the fact that you have all been allowed to chose your own path, which subject you’ll study, which interests you’ll partake in just means that you filter down until you find those like you.And it shocked me at first but, yes, there are other people like me.

I suppose rather than expectations, these were my fears and misconceptions. There were others to do with workload and university life but I might bring them up again in another post.

Regardless, I hope this may be a reassurance to someone just as nervous, but hopefully excited too, as I was.

Feel free to comment or message any expectations you have and want to ask about or any misconceptions you want dispelled!

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