Before I started attending university, I had high hopes for what was to come. From the way it’s depicted in the movies and books, as well as how my parents promoted it, I thought college would be the solution to all of my problems. However, this really isn’t the case for everyone, and I soon came to realize that the mindset of college being “the best four years of your life” isn’t the best outlook to have.
Each time a new school year began and the next group of college freshmen rolled in, I started to notice a pattern. On TikTok especially, I saw freshmen and underclassmen ranting, crying and voicing their frustrations about how much they’ve hated their college experience so far and wanted nothing more than to drop out. Some talked about academic struggles or homesickness while others mentioned how difficult it can be to make friends or find “your people.” It seemed like many students felt like they were scammed into thinking college life was picture perfect. When it wasn’t, students naturally felt like they must be doing something wrong.
I am a senior now in my final semester at Saint Louis University and can easily admit that these have been some of the best and most unforgettable years of my life. I’ve enjoyed being on campus and what college life has had to offer. However, looking back at my experience, it wasn’t always sunshine and rainbows.
In the beginning, I struggled in a similar way to these people on social media. My studies were more difficult than in high school. It wasn’t an easy adjustment and, at times, I didn’t feel cut out to succeed in my classes. Additionally, the social aspect of college threw me for a loop initially, and I felt I wasn’t fit to make the kinds of connections and relationships everyone around me seemed to make easily. If I wasn’t going to parties on the weekends or making exciting memories left and right, I felt like I was doing college wrong.
Over the years, however, I changed how I approached and viewed college. College life does not entail acing all of your studies every time. It does not always entail parties, big friend groups or being in relationships. None of these are necessary for your college experience to be enjoyable or memorable–at the end of the day, college is what you make it. You don’t have to be the best version of yourself at all times. It also isn’t necessary to have a huge breakthrough or moment of self-discovery. Don’t think that you have to perceive these four years as some life-changing event.
In college, try to think about the things that are most important to you, not to everyone else. If you would rather have a cozy night in than go out, you’re likely to have just as good of a time. If you’re not interested in the clubs and organizations on campus that everyone else is joining, don’t force yourself. If you’re struggling to feel confident and secure in your major, don’t beat yourself up for it, you’ve got time. There is no instruction manual for getting through college perfectly. Not knowing what you’re doing is part of the journey and plenty of people are in the same boat.
Everyone’s experience is different and no one should feel like they have to live up to the expectations of another person’s experience and life. It’s important to remember that life doesn’t end after college and there is always more life to come. College can certainly be “the best four years of your life,” but it doesn’t have to be.