An Open Letter to the College Experience

Dear College Experience, 

I’ve been looking forward to meeting you my entire life. 

How could I not after everything I heard about you? “It’s the best four years of your life,” they said, reminiscing on the walls of their own universities and the hidden treasure box of secrets they hold.

Defined by spontaneous trips, relationships that end as soon as they begin, and deep late night conversations blurred by the haze of exhaustion and excitement, the college experience is a rite of passage that everyone wants to fulfill. 

Finally, you arrived! I went out to meet you with open arms. 

Unfortunately, you brought some unwelcome guests. 

Sorry to break it to you, but I hate the Fear of Missing Out. It’s hard to focus when they’re around—they make every moment feel expendable, every second with the potential to be wasted. They shake up my already indecisive brain and put me in a perpetual state of anxiety. I hate the Fear of Missing Out. 

Your other friend, Burnout, was once a stranger, but now I’m sad to say that they’re a close acquaintance. I didn’t realize Burnout could come in so many forms. Sure, I’d had some experience with the academic form, but little did I know there’s also such a thing as social Burnout! I was just talking, and talking, and talking all the time and when I wasn’t talking, I felt like I should have been talking. College isn’t made for introverts.

But I pushed through. I met some of the best people I’ve ever met, I had some of the best conversations I’ll ever have, and I opened up my mind in a way that never could have been done at any other time in my life. The College Experience, then, had its perks as well as its flaws. 

That was before March came, and the apocalypse began. 

I cannot stress enough how lucky I was—to have a home to return to, to remain relatively unaffected by the economic downturn, and to be able to breathe. I’m lucky that I wasn’t one of the many isolated in a hospital, reliant on a machine for oxygen. I have the privilege to be here today and write this letter, and that is no small feat. 

I became angry at a lot of things in March. The government, the ignorant, the system. I also became angry at every single person, every single movie, every single song that made me believe in the significance of the College Experience, because now it was torn away from me, so what was I to do? 

What crucial parts of identity formation did I miss out on? What unforgettable memories will I not be able to make? Will I ever get my sense of purpose back? 

I hope there’s a light at the end of the tunnel, that soon things will start to regain a sense of normalcy, but it almost feels laughable to believe as much when in March of last year we thought COVID would last for a few weeks at most.

I’m scared because though graduation looms closer, my self-growth is stunted. Am I going to graduate without having grown the way I was supposed to in those four years? Am I going to be thrust into the real world with the mind of a second semester freshman? 

Because if so—it’s going to be a hell of a ride. 

Sincerely, 

The Disillusioned College Student