College in the Media vs. IRL

In my three years of college, I have not experienced anything close to what a lot of the media said it was going to be like. Whether it’s music, movies, or TV shows, college is mostly depicted as non-stop partying and drinking, with very little consequences and very little stress. From the perspective of any college student, there are a good amount of tough times and not as much chugging and partying as they hoped.


When we look at songs like these, they tend to depict unrealistic expectations of the next four years of our adolescent life:

I Love College - Asher Roth

Most unrealistic lyric: That party last night/
Was awfully crazy,/ I wish we taped it

College Years (feat. Love and Theft) - Casey Donahew

Most unrealistic lyric: We had time and we had beer/
And that's all we needed in those college years

College - Pat Green

Most unrealistic lyric: Learned almost everything that I know/
Without ever gaining knowledge/ In college, yeah college

Now even though some of these songs are dated, they still more accurately capture the true tone of many of the frustrations that young adolescents in college experience:

College Kids - Relient K

Most relatable lyric: i'm poor, i'm starving, i'm flat broke/
i've got no cash to spend

Rivers and Roads - The Head and the Heart

Most relatable lyric: A year from now we'll all be gone/
All our friends will move away

Campus - Vampire Weekend

Most relatable lyric: Then I see you, you're walking cross the campus
Cruel professor, studying romances

College Kids - This Wild Life

Most relatable lyric: You college kids are clueless/ Your lack of major proves it/ Communication's useless


The reality is, there are times when we want to just curl into a ball and not leave our dorm room. Not all media presents this aspect of the supposed best four years of our lives. Here are some TV shows and movies that present college in the way that we believed it would be our freshman year of high school, from mud wrestling to shotgunning beers.

  • Animal House

  • Old School

  • Van Wilder


If there is a show I can recommend that gives an honest, real look into college life, it would be the show Undeclared. With themes of uncertainty and how truly awkward college can be, Undeclared has its share of parties, but balances it out with great, witty dialogue that commentates about the many anxieties and worries that college kids face.


Let’s be clear, College is not the worst place in the world. There are plenty of beautiful memories to be shared with the best people you’ll ever meet. But this idea that you are always happy and drink until you can’t see straight is a reality that doesn’t exist; I hate to break it to you. There’s something blissful about hearing other people's bad experiences in college through television, film, or music. The fact that we are not the only ones going through tough times can make the feeling of solitude diminish from the pit of our stomachs.