Commonly-Held Unrealistic Student Expectations
First time college students frequently arrive at the university with a number
of unrealistic expectations. Some of these expectations are a result of their
K -12 experience; others may stem from what they've seen in the movies or heard
from older friends. If you are teaching a class which includes freshmen, keep
in mind that for many this is a new game with all new rules. Explicitly sharing
your expectations on some of the issues raised by this list will help students
make the transition from high school to college more successfully.
The following list of commonly held student expectations is based upon a
list originally created by Lucy McDonald at the Chemekata Community College
in Oregon. Some instructors have used this list as a small group exercise on
the first day of class in the following way: Students are divided into randomly
formed groups of four, given the list of expectations followed by two blank
columns. In the first column, students are asked to write why the expectation
might be unrealistic; in the second column they are asked to replace the unrealistic
expectation with a more realistic one. The small group discussion is followed
by a whole class discussion of realistic expectations for this class.
- The instructor should remember that you were absent and tell you what you
- During class the instructor answers all your personal questions, i.e., "Why
did I get this marked wrong on my quiz?" "What's my grade for this class?"
- The instructor will appreciate your asking, "Are we doing anything important
- Telling the instructor, "I don't understand **anything** in the book," will
elicit a helpful response.
- The instructor will repeat a lecture for you privately.
- The instructor will automatically bring you handouts for any days you missed.
- The instructor should readily accept your excuses for turning in late assignments.
- The instructor will automatically tolerate you coming late to class.
- The instructor will not care if you leave class early.
- You may talk to classmates during a lecture.
- You may sleep or do homework during class.
- You may pack up your book, pens, etc. before the end of class.
- The instructor should excuse you for being unprepared for class because
you didn't know the assignment.
- The instructor will include all the major points of the textbook in his/her
lecture so you don't have to read it.
- In a discussion, the instructor expects you to be an observer rather than
- It is the responsibility of the instructor to bring a stapler to class
for students to use when they turn in assignments.
- Telling your instructor that you 'tried hard' on an assignment will result
in a higher grade.