I remember touring colleges as a high school student (wow, I feel old) and being told this glorifying mantra: “College will be the best four years of your life!” From the get-go, that one simple phrase that held so much meaning placed a lot of pressure on me as a shy 17-year-old who didn’t know what she wanted to major in, what career she wanted to pursue after college, and what she was even doing with her life in general (and frankly, still doesn’t know).
As an introverted freshman with an undeclared major, I went into college waiting for that enlightening moment where I would think to myself, Yup, college is the BEST four years of my life — they were all right! I waited, and waited, and waited… and the moment never came. Granted, there were fun and memorable moments — but there was no golden moment where I looked around and had an epiphany of some sort, the kind that everyone told me I would inevitably have in college.
I did everything my counselors and friends and family members recommended to me: I got involved in on-campus activities and clubs (hi, Her Campus at LMU!), joined a sorority, declared a major that I was genuinely interested in, put myself out of my comfort zone and made new friends — but the moment I so desperately wanted never came. I felt angry and disheartened as I doom-scrolled through Instagram. I saw all my peers laughing and smiling on their stories, posting photos holding red Solo cups surrounded by big groups of people (pre-COVID, of course), going to really cool places, and seemingly having the times of their lives. Meanwhile, I sat in my freshman dorm room, marathoning Big Little Lies and eating a pizza.
And it’s not like I wasn’t having fun, but why wasn’t I having as much fun as everyone else? I was involved. I was doing well academically. I had friends. What was I doing wrong?
It turns out, nothing.
College will not be the best four years of your life, and it shouldn’t be — because you still have your whole life ahead of you. College normally ends for most people when they’re in their early 20s — and do you really want the best years of your life to already be gone that early on? On average, most people live well into their 70s, even 80s — you don’t want the best years of your life to be gone that soon.
The romanticization of college life is also nothing new — and frankly, is really misleading for incoming and current college students. In high school, colleges send colorful pamphlets to your house, promising a bright and happy future with smiling college students covering the pages. The experience of college, this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, is viewed through a rose-colored lens. The media even plays into this, showing incredibly attractive 30-year-old actors playing 18-year-old college students and partying and dating and having the time of their lives. These shows and movies create a narrative of unrealistic and unattainable expectations for real-life college students that college students then try to mimic. We believe that this fantasy is an attainable reality, and curate a highlight reel on social media of what we wish every day of our college experience was truly like — but ultimately, this lofty goal can never be reached.
I’m not saying that college is bad — I truly am so grateful for my three years at Loyola Marymount University thus far (I seriously can’t believe I’m a rising senior… yikes). But the romantacization of college life, this idea that “college will be the best four years of your life” — it’s just not true, and it shouldn’t be true, anyway. I’m sorry, but I refuse to let the peak of my existence be a few hundred likes on some Instagram pictures from a party; I’ve got bigger things coming.