“The best four years of your life!”
Many people will tell you, “College is the best four years of your life.” Do not listen to these people. Kick them. Challenge them to a duel. Tell them to stop propagating that B.S.
Because that is what it is: B.S. Not because college is not fantastic. Not because some of your most vivid memories will not be made in this place. Not because you will not learn more than you ever thought you wanted to know, nor because you will not mature quantitatively more than at any other point in your life.
No, not for these reasons, because they in fact all WILL be, exasperatingly, the case. College is fan-freaking-tastic. But the “College is the best four years of your life” mantra is terrible advice, for three reasons.
The first is that a large number of the people giving you this advice (i.e. the other people’s columns that you have read and will shortly be reading) have not even lived past college. What do they know?
The second reason we ought to discard this junky advice is that it encourages an attitude totally devoid of the consideration that there even exists life after college. Whether it is getting really drunk and falling out of a window (yes) or writing a tasteless letter to Student Life that you later try to get removed from the Web site so you can actually get a job (sorry), your actions do, periodically, have consequences.
The third reason to dump this painful cliché is the point from which I will begin my actual, concrete advice (and this relates to point numero dos): you must think (actively and decisively) about life after college. For the love of all things both sacred and not: think about what you want to happen when you are done here.
This sounds initially discouraging, I know, and more, not fun. If you approach it the wrong way, it will be. The wrong way to approach this advice consists of ruining your college experience in order to work toward a successful post-college life. Be very careful of this.
The right way to approach this advice is, rather than to conform your college experience to your ideal post-college career and life (as the mistaken person does), instead conform your ideal post-college career and life to your college experience. What do you love about being here? Do that, and do it after you leave too.
The reason mature adults tell you that “college is the best four years of your life” is because they savored the college experience but did not have the foresight to come up with a way to extend that joy into a career or into a life. They tell you these are the “best four years”-and you (if you follow in their footsteps) will tell it to kids when you are an adult too-only because you yourself believed it when they you in college.
But you, with a couple extra generations of experience (and my help), know that you can both savor college and use it as a time to find something (and DECIDE on it, which is often the step that gets missed) that you want to do afterwards. The last thing you want to do, I believe, is sit in an office staring at a fluorescent computer screen, in “business-casual” attire, in a “good” job, one year after college or ten or thirty years after, wondering, “What the hell am I doing here?”
If that is where you end up, don’t just “end up” there. GO there, consciously. College is your opportunity to figure out why working in an office will suck. (Or why it will rock.)
“College is the best four years of your life” will only be true if you believe it. Now is the time to stop doing so. Your whole LIFE is going to be fan-freaking-tastic. Seize college’s joy, but make it the beginning of the rest of your life.
Dennis Sweeney is a junior in the College of Arts & Sciences and a forum editor. He can be reached by e-mail at [email protected]
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