College is not the best four years of your life

Everyone has different experiences. Yours isn't wrong

They told us that college would be the best four years of our lives.

While the idea might sound nice, that generalization can make students feel more stressed, nervous and pressured than they already did.

Those four years are romanticized to a point where it becomes impossible for any experience to live up to the expectation. So, maybe it’s OK if it isn’t like everybody told you it was. College doesn't have to be the best years of your life.

I think this view of college sets us up for feelings of disappointment and failure because the expectation generally doesn't align with reality. While this is a nice sentiment, the expectation is unhealthy and unrealistic.

Many of us enter college expecting to immediately connect with with many cool people, and to feel a "Dead Poets Society" sense of inspiration. Unfortunately, general education courses with rosters often exceeding 100 students are not always going to meet those expectations.

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High school to college is a huge transition and it takes time to adapt. Most of us leave our friends, family and the places that have made us feel secure our whole life. The transition can be a scary, overwhelming and lonely experience. If you expected nothing less than rainbows and sunshine on your new campus, reality is hellish.

“Students come into college with pretty diverse, but positive expectations about experiences they’ve never had,” says Aaron Krasnow, Ph.D and vice president and director of ASU’s Counseling Services. “When you come in with these expectations some will be met and some will not. 

"So when reality doesn’t live up to these expectations, students may begin to feel their college experience is wrong.”

However, there really isn't a perfect equation to "doing college right." It's going to look and feel different for every individual. Trying to live up to someone else's definition of collegiate success will only hinder you from growing.

In all honesty, I'll be hugely disappointed if these are the best years of my life. I don’t want to peak when I’m 24, and I’m sure most people don’t either. We should be welcoming the years to come, not desperately clinging to the four years we spend as undergrads.

Your college years will be filled with new experiences, new communities and new lessons that will be hugely valuable. Life will be invigorating and exhausting, beautiful and painful all at once. You don’t have to enjoy every second of it; and you’re not failing if you don’t want to stay in this place forever. Your success is not dependent on another person's experiences. Your experience is entirely your own.

“The whole point of college is growth and experience. Accept how normal this is. Remind yourself that you’re doing something different,” Krasnow said. “If your ultimate goal is growth you’ll experience college more positively.”

Let’s stop letting other’s experiences dictate our idea of college success. Let’s stop letting our own expectations get in the way of valuing what our college years can offer us.

If we liberate ourselves from the idea that college has to be the best years of our life, we’ll be able to have a more honest and healthy college experience.


Reach the columnist at sljorda4@asu.edu or follow @skyjordan15 on Twitter.

Editor’s note: The opinions presented in this column are the author’s and do not imply any endorsement from The State Press or its editors.

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