Most college-themed movies paint your collegiate years as party-saturated and carefree — but in reality, college is an important learning experience, both in the classroom and in social situations. While those four (or five, or six) years will most likely bring you your best friends and lifelong memories, there are some hard-learned lessons that college teaches you. Many of these stressors occur during the first semester. Course Hero, an online learning platform, surveyed more than 1,000 high school seniors and college freshmen to uncover the myths and realities about stress in college — and their findings might surprise you.

college students

The goal of this survey was to pit high school students’ expectations against the realities told by college freshmen; the survey was split almost exactly half and half between those demographics. Given the split, the results say a lot about the mismatches between the perceptions and realities about going away to college.

One expectation that actually rings true among collegians is that of the challenges college brings: Like high school seniors anticipated, college freshmen said that their top three stressors are time management, paying college tuition, and social distractions.

Another confirmed suspicion about college is the academic workload. “Forty-seven percent of high school seniors expect the coursework to be ‘somewhat more challenging’ compared to high school — and, equally, 47 percent of college freshmen report the same,” the study said. Additionally, many students anticipate the stress of studying; more than half of high school seniors expect maintaining a high GPA to be a hard aspect of college, and 65 percent of college freshmen confirm this to be true.

The last confirmed stat about college will make parents happy: 86 percent of high school students expect to visit home during their college years, and 90 percent of students actually do. Talk about #BackHomeBallers.

Despite the preparation high school students feel for the academic commitments of college, the study shows that they most likely don’t anticipate two key elements of college life: finances and mental health.

While many pre-college students anticipate taking on student debt, there’s a 14 percent discrepancy between students who expect to receive scholarships and those that actually do. These mismatched expectations ring true for personal finances too: 18 percent of high school students expect to borrow $1,000 or more from relatives, and 34 percent of college students actually do. Start pinching those pennies now, high schoolers!

Finally, students seem less prepared to shoulder the importance of mental health while in their early college years. Despite the fact that 84 percent of incoming college kids anticipate focusing on their mental health, only two-thirds of college kids actually do. When they do decide to take time for themselves, most collegians turn to exercise, followed by creative pursuits, the study says.

When it comes to a life transition as big as leaving for college, it’s hard to be totally prepared. As it stands, high schoolers seem pretty ready to handle the hard academics of college life — but they’d be smart to prepare for the finances and self-care that comes with those stressful four years too.

Was college life what you expected it would be? Let us know @BritandCo!

(Photo via Getty)