University of Minnesota
Office of Human Resources

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.

  1. The instructor should remember that you were absent and tell you what you missed.
  2. 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?"
  3. The instructor will appreciate your asking, "Are we doing anything important today?"
  4. Telling the instructor, "I don't understand **anything** in the book," will elicit a helpful response.
  5. The instructor will repeat a lecture for you privately.
  6. The instructor will automatically bring you handouts for any days you missed.
  7. The instructor should readily accept your excuses for turning in late assignments.
  8. The instructor will automatically tolerate you coming late to class.
  9. The instructor will not care if you leave class early.
  10. You may talk to classmates during a lecture.
  11. You may sleep or do homework during class.
  12. You may pack up your book, pens, etc. before the end of class.
  13. The instructor should excuse you for being unprepared for class because you didn't know the assignment.
  14. The instructor will include all the major points of the textbook in his/her lecture so you don't have to read it.
  15. In a discussion, the instructor expects you to be an observer rather than a participant.
  16. It is the responsibility of the instructor to bring a stapler to class for students to use when they turn in assignments.
  17. Telling your instructor that you 'tried hard' on an assignment will result in a higher grade.