As the speaker at my high school graduation, I weighed in on the idea that college comprises, “the best years of one’s life,” arguing that it does not; life continually evolves, so one part cannot be definitively better than any other portion in particular.
However, having been in college for over a month has challenged my stance. At my graduation, I could not foresee college being substantially better than high school. I had viewed it only as a place to work hard and build up a resume so I could get into grad school. But I was wrong. Over the past month, I have felt as though my overall level of happiness has risen greatly above my average high school mood.
I attribute this general increase in cheerfulness to free time and freedom. I am no longer trapped in one building for seven hours a day, so I can explore a variety of extracurricular activities that I used to not have time for and ones that were not available to me in high school. Plus, I can choose what I want to do and when: if I want to get food from Late Night at one in the morning, I can walk out of my dorm and go; if I want to sleep over in one of my friends’ dorms, I can just do it; if I decide to nap for four hours or eat pizza for every meal for a week, there is no one here to stop me.
However, I also suffer consequences that are now exclusively my fault. Although the lack of parental guidance here is refreshing, it just means I am now my own source of guidance. While I can feel and enjoy the immediate effects of a freer schedule and less adult supervision, I also have to take on extra responsibility to ensure that I am safe, healthy and successful.
It is this trade-off that has challenged my opinion on whether or not one’s college years are truly, “the best years of one’s life.”
I truly am noticeably happier now than I was in earlier years, and I think it is entirely possible that I may look back on college and say that these years were the best of my life. However, I cannot possibly make that judgment now, nor should anyone else.
Falling for the belief that college is where you will be at your ultimate best is a disservice to yourself and your future. If you let yourself believe that college will be the best time of your life, you will be disappointed when you leave, even though you could have just as many incredible opportunities and experiences after graduation. So try to eliminate your expectations for the future and simply enjoy what comes to you when it does.