September 18, 2019

College Does Not Have to Be the Best Four Years: Establishing Realistic Expectations for the College Experience

posted on: Thursday August 29, 2019

College should be depicted more realistically, as a time to challenge oneself and grow
intellectually. Nick Crenshaw ’20 / The Cowl.

by Alyssa Cohen ’21

Opinion Staff

The hackneyed sentiment “college will be the best four years of your life” is a terrible cliché to reiterate to any incoming freshman. The college years are indubitably a unique phase in an individual’s life—the experience grants students the opportunity to meet new people while studying a subject of interest. 

Typically, once students enter college, they are no longer required to answer to their guardians. While the college experience presents a myriad of opportunities for self-discovery, relationship development, and just downright fun, the transition to campus life simultaneously introduces tremendous lifestyle changes that can evoke emotional turmoil for a new student. 

When freshmen first move onto campus, they step into uncharted territory. To that end, many first year students, most of whom will eventually grow to love on-campus life, may endure feelings of loneliness during their first few months away at school. 

While a student may experience such hardships in adjusting to campus life, he or she may notice a little voice in the back of their head echoing “these will be the best four years of your life.” Presumably, this sentiment will only exacerbate a student’s negative feelings toward their college lifestyle because they will constantly evaluate their experiences against such a high bar. 

Additionally, social media seems to perpetuate the unrealistically high expectations that society establishes for the college experience. This may also worsen the mood of a student who has yet to adjust and find their niche in a campus community. 

College students go out on weekend nights and share innumerable videos on their Snapchats of wild parties and groups of their peers howling with laughter. They post picture after picture with herds of new friends on Instagram. In this way, social media can discourage or isolate a student who has yet to connect with a group of friends or lacks the desire to party. 

With so many opportunities for students to find their place on campus, freshmen should not give up if their experience does not feel amazing yet. 

PC offers services like the counseling center, peer ministry, along with a dedicated RA staff that can provide emotional support to any student struggling to adjust to campus life. The College also boasts a myriad of clubs and organizations, from WDOM-FM to Best Buddies to Running Club that offer the opportunity to meet new people. Along with PC’s generally small class sizes,  students have countless opportunities to discover their role on campus and build relationships with peers who have similar interests and values. 

Every aspect of life has advantages and pitfalls. The college years, after a student has acclimated to campus life, can evoke a novel sense of freedom that oftentimes lends to an illusory identification with some graduates as the best years of their life. Presumably, even in the case of those of older generations who dub their college years the best of their lives, if these individuals were placed back in a college setting at their current age, the environment would likely present as less enticing than its initial appeal, as such individuals have advanced to a different phase of life with new responsibilities, interests, ideals, and freedom. 

Essentially, college is the time for personal, social, and academic exploration, development, and, of course, plain fun. While it poses an opportunity for rewarding and enriching experiences, such experiences should not be blown out of proportion. To that end, society should stop promoting college to incoming freshman as the best four years of their lives, but rather depict it more candidly—as a time to learn and appreciate the world and people around them and better comprehend their individual roles in relation to a community at large.

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