Assignment: College Reflection

STEP 1: To practice reflection, try this activity writing about your first week at college and how college is similar and/or different from what you expected. You can fill it out in the chart shown below, or just write down your thoughts in paragraphs, but complete it in three steps:

First, spend five minutes brainstorming what you expected college to be like. Think about these kinds of things:

Things to Consider Expectations Reality Observations
What did you expect the students to be like?
What did you expect the teachers to be like?
What did you expect the workload to be like?
What did you expect the classroom environment to be like?
What did you expect the campus climate/community to be like?
What did you expect your living environment to be like (for those living on campus)?
What did you expect your commute to be like (for those commuting to campus)?
What did you expect it to feel like to be a college student?
Anything else?

Next, spend five minutes brainstorming what college has actually been like for you so far.

Finally, reflect on how your expectations for college differ from your actual experiences. How off base were you? How accurate were your expectations? What areas of college have met your expectations?

STEP 2: Pick one or two rows from the chart and discuss the similarities and/or differences between your expectations for college and the reality of your experience. Think also about what equipped you to be accurate in your expectations. For example, maybe you knew what to expect because “I have an older sister who attends this institution and she told me exactly what to expect” or maybe you were stepping into the unknown—”I am the first in my family to attend college and I had no idea what to expect.”

This response doesn’t need to be formatted in any particular way—just write, think, and reflect. Your response should be at least 200 words (about two single-spaced paragraphs).

STEP 3: Write a paragraph reflecting on this activity (at least 75 words, about one short paragraph). Was it easy to think about and discuss your expectations about college? Were you surprised in any way by your own response? What did you enjoy or dislike about this activity? Why? What lessons can you learn about yourself as a writer from participating in this activity?


Criteria Proficient Developing Not Evident Points
College expectations and reality Response includes a freewrite chart with at least five items Response includes a partial list of Incomplete list __/3
Freewrite Writes at least 200 words about the differences/similarities between expectations for and reality of college. The writing is easy to read and follow. Response is too short, hard to follow, or off-topic. Missing or incomplete freewrite __/8
Reflection Includes a reflection paragraph about the writing assignment that reflects on the freewrite activity and offers some thoughts about lessons learned. At least 75 words. Reflection is too short or does not dive into enough detail about the assignment. Incomplete or missing reflection __/4
Total __/15

Sample Response

Here’s one sample response below. Note that he starts by writing about the first item on the food list, but then goes on to write about his mom and his relationship with his dad. There is no right way to write your response —you too should feel free to let your reflective writing guide you.

My College Experience

One thing that surprised me about college was the high cost of books. I had prepared to pay for my books by working over the summer as a lifeguard. It was a hot, boring job, but I knew I needed to be responsible. My family is invested in my education, but they also expect me to pay for some of my college expenses (like books) myself, and I thought I was prepared.

Imagine my surprise when I got to the bookstore and saw that the cost of my math textbook was more than $150. I knew from friends that students used and rental books were often available and cheaper, so I sought out that option. I was even more shocked to discover that a rental of the math textbook cost $120. The savings for a rental was only $30, and if I lost or damaged the book, I would be out the full cost. Now, I know myself and I can get distracted. The chances that I lose the book aren’t so small.

In high school, books were supplied to us by the school. Now that I’m in college, I’m responsible for paying tuition and for covering the cost of textbooks. It’s a lot more than I expected. I guess I may need to do a lot more lifeguarding!


It was pretty easy to write this response. I knew right away that I wanted to write about the textbook issue. I mean, I had heard about the cost of books, but that really surprised me. And it was just my math book, and I don’t even care about math – it’s a required course! Maybe that’s why this was pretty easy for me to write, actually. I was kind of annoyed about how much the book cost! Maybe one takeaway is that when I care about something, it’s easier to write about it.


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