They lied: college is not the best four years of your life

by Lindsey Anderson, Contributor

If you were anything like me as a high school student, college was a daunting chapter that you attempted to dodge numerous times. 

The idea of “higher education” was a step you never felt you needed, but you were never successful in attempts to avoid the “norm” because  you would always be met with the same response: “You have to go to college! It will be the best four years of your life.”

Suddenly, freshman year of college rolls around and you’re crawling out of your skin with excitement. It’s finally here — the best four years of your life have now begun. 

For many American college students, this is the expectation — and rightfully so.

We’re fed a glorified vision of youth and independence — filled with travel, lifelong friends and the idea that every day is the new best day of your life. This vision is deeply rooted in American society that many college students struggle with confusion and depression when their college experience doesn’t meet their initial expectation. 

I had my own experience with this during the second semester of my freshman year when one of my roommates told me she was considering transferring to another school. 

The conversation went something like this: “All of my friends from back home are having the time of their life in college. I’m not. My college experience is nothing like I thought it would be and I think that if I went somewhere else, maybe it could be.”

The thing is, the vast majority of college students don’t have the once-in-a-lifetime college experience they were envisioning. For some, finding a new school is the solution. For most, it’s coming to the realization that college isn’t going to be “the best four years of their life.”

And you know what? That’s okay.  

It’s okay if you spend the majority of your four years alone. Not all of us find our lifelong sisters and brothers at school and the reality is, you may be spending way more time by yourself than you ever thought you would. But that’s okay, because you’ll learn to get creative with your “you” time, and you’ll grow increasingly comfortable in your solitude, a skill that will serve you well in adulthood. 

You’ll come to find these four years weren’t meant for discovering your lifelong besties but instead, were meant for you to grow without the confines of others. That’s more than okay — it’s beautiful.

It’s also okay if you spend the majority of your four years at home. Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights hold an immense amount of pressure to go out and do something “cool,” and it’s totally okay if you never do. Use your newfound comfort in solitude to spark your creativity, maybe by writing or painting. Sure, you won’t have those late-night college photos to show for the big weekend, but that time you spend alone at home will grow you.

At the end of the day, that’s what college is all about: learning, growing and educating yourself in ways that go far beyond your college degree. 

It will be confusing and depressing at times to find that you’ve strayed so far from the initial expectation, but you’ll learn to be thankful that the original college definition did not apply to your own experience.

So as your time in college evolves and it’s still not what you imagined it to be, don’t let it disappoint you. Accept that these years won’t be the best years of your life but rather the most important years in shaping who you’ll be when those “best years” do come around. It’s not always comfortable, but it’s worth it.

You’re only in your twenties, anyway. The last place “the best years of your life” should be is behind you. 

So celebrate this awkward time! The best eighty years of your life are still yet to come.  

Lindsey Anderson is a senior studying rhetoric and writing.