KIPP Goes to College: What Surprised Us

College Suprises

By Zoe Fenson, KIPP Foundation Writer

If you’re a student applying to or starting college, chances are you have lots of questions about what it’ll be like. How will it be different from high school? What should I be looking out for? Especially for students who are the first in their family to go to college, it’s hard to know what to expect.

We asked some of our KIPP Through College leaders, KIPP alumni, and staff from our partner universities to share their college experiences and advice. They’ve experienced the challenges and triumphs that come with earning a bachelor’s degree, and they’ve got lots of wisdom to share.

Throughout the fall, we will be highlighting their thoughts here. Today’s topic: expecting the unexpected.


What surprised you most about college?

“I was surprised by how much autonomy I had in shaping my own schedule. Since you’re only in class about 15-17 hours per week, it is up to you how much time you need to spend studying, engaging in various projects, participating in extracurricular activities, working at a job/internship, hanging with friends (and eating and sleeping, of course). Success requires discipline and great time management skills.”
Tamara Siler, Senior Associate Director of Admission, Rice University (Rice University)


“I loved living in the dorms. Sure, the rooms were a little small, sharing a room wasn’t always fun, and the showers weren’t the best. However, I had so much fun living among my friends, and I learned just as much from each person I met and spent time with as I learned in my classes. It was phenomenal and I chose to say in dorms all four years of undergrad.”
Freddy Gonzalez, Chief Learning Officer, KIPP Foundation (Brown University)


“How different I felt there versus high school – academically and socially. It was difficult for me to connect with people when I first arrived on campus. Academically, I was also feeling a little adrift. In high school, I was an honors student, but the difference in rigor was difficult for me to adjust to in the beginning. Both of those aspects were surprising, as I hadn’t thought that ‘college life’ from high school would be so different!”
Jessica Hess, Associate Director of Admissions, Lycoming College (Bucknell University)


“I was surprised that studying was such a big secret in college. My school was a very social school so people were out all of the time during the week and weekends. I always wondered when people found time to study—my peers didn’t discuss studying much until our senior year.”
Jay Guzman, KIPP NYC alumnus and KIPP DC Kindergarten teacher (University of Delaware)


“I was surprised at how much I was able to develop close relationships with some of my professors. Because I went to a large public university, many told me that I would be just a number. However, when I sought out my professors during office hours or even just working in the office, I was able to learn more, get more opportunities, and be challenged academically and personally. I was inspired by it all.”
Laurie Brown, College Advising Manager, KIPP Delta Public Schools (Florida State University)


Learn more about how KIPP supports students on their paths to and through college > 



Search our blog

Sort by