opinion

Why College Doesn’t Have to Be the Best Four Years of Your Life

todayMarch 1, 2022 189 5 5

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By Hannah Brown
Web Content Contributor

The cliché that college is the climax or pinnacle of your life and everything you experience thereafter is a point of constant decline is incredibly disheartening.

This idea circulates in our society but has little tactile or meaningful evidence in support of its claims. Of course, there will always be those with an adversarial stance on this topic, and to some degree, I do concur with them.

Disregarding whether a degree is necessary in today’s world, college has many offerings whether in newfound independence, real-life skills, meeting new people or personal maturity. And while this time is meant for furthering one’s education, the most memorable memories usually come from outside of the classroom.

The amount of pressure put onto prospective college students is insurmountable. Hearing that you will find your best friends and your future bridesmaids just isn’t realistic. And shocker – not everyone walks across the stage with an impending engagement around the corner.

Setting my positive experiences aside, my college years have been far from this idolized concept.

During high school, I always struggled when faced with the question: ‘What do you want to be when you grow up?’

I never knew how to answer this question, and I didn’t know where to begin to find an answer. Would I just wake up one day and realize I had a calling for teaching or medicine? Lying and saying that my dream was to work behind a computer for the rest of my life would have been a more welcomed response than what I was offering.

I never understood being faced with such important decisions so early on. What if you pick the wrong school or the wrong major and don’t realize it until it’s too late? And what happens if I don’t love my college or major like I’m supposed to?

Everyone wanted me to be so sure about the decisions I was making when the only thing I was sure about was how I had absolutely no clue what I wanted. I became so afraid that I would make the wrong decision and have it drastically impact my life that I became overly apprehensive in my decision-making.

My freshman year of college I went to Sam Houston State University. One of the driving factors for me in picking this school was that one of my closest friends in high school had committed early on in going there.

If I’m being honest, her decision to go to that school is what made my decision so easy. I was always terrified of going to college and being alone, so this was an easy way to fix my fear.

To my lack of surprise, I knew I wanted to transfer less than two months into the fall semester. And by the end of the year, I never seemed to find my place. I felt completely alone and depressed and knew from the start that Huntsville would never feel like a place that I could call home.

I felt like I had failed at the whole college thing. I didn’t find friends for life or have the fun roommate experience that I felt everyone else was having.

I used to experience a lot of jealousy towards other people who when faced with these questions, didn’t have to hesitate before giving their answer. Whether it was because they had been going to Texas A&M football games their entire life and had pictures of them at Kyle Field when they were five, or their first words were “Hook ‘em” and they grew up with more burnt orange in their house than anyone could ever want.

But seriously, who actually likes that color?

Or there were the kids who somehow knew their entire life that their purpose was to be a nurse or a teacher. Growing up I never had any inkling of what I was meant to do which led to me being jealous and insecure, and caused me to feel very unfulfilled and lead a very glass half empty type of life.

After transferring, I moved back home and went to community college. I majored in business because I still didn’t feel drawn to anything else. Community college is often looked down upon and is another reason not everyone has the “traditional” four-year experience. Not everyone is in the same financial situation which causes a lot of students to settle because they can’t afford their dream school.

Community college was there for me when I was in this weird limbo in my life. I was still just as confused and uncertain about my desires as I was two years before. But as my second year was wrapping up, I was once again faced with the decision of where to go next.

I was in a relationship at the time which led me to transfer to Texas State (apparently, I didn’t learn from freshman year.) While I carried a lot of optimism for the start of my junior year in Fall 2020, nothing could have prepared me for the extremely low points and decrease in mental health that I was about to experience.

I knew no one in San Marcos, all my classes and organizations I joined were online and my roommates wanted nothing to do with each other. Freshman year I had my roommate from high school, sophomore year I lived with my family and now for the first time, I was completely alone and regretting coming to Texas State.

It was very hard to motivate and pick myself up when I had no one to physically check on me to make sure I was okay. I always joked that had I died in my room, it would have been weeks before one of my roommates would have noticed. And as much as I hate to admit this, those feelings were with me for most of the year.

The dynamic from my junior year to senior year changed completely. It took me a few years to find my dream school, interests outside of my major and some of the kindest people I’ve ever met.

Not to mention I have grown so much as a person, greatly due to these experiences and especially because of who I have surrounded myself with these past few months. It takes a lot of growth to appreciate past experiences for what they were, knowing that without them I would be in a different position today.

With that being said, your college years are just that: a time to have fun, figure out who you are away from your family, a time to learn real-life skills and for some, a time to figure out how to do your own laundry.

I think some of us forget that our life doesn’t end in our mid-twenties. There are still so many opportunities and experiences waiting for us. During high school, I had such high expectations for how I thought my college years would play out. I always thought at the very least college would help me to answer the big question, ‘What do you want to be when you grow up?’

Well, after changing my major way too many times, I’m now a finance major writing an article for a college radio station. Clearly, I still have no idea, but I’m okay with that and I’m certainly not alone in feeling that way.

I also never would have believed that I would go to three colleges in three years or take four and a half years to graduate. And now with my impending graduation this December, I no longer feel scared or ashamed of my uncertainty.

Bigger things are yet to come, and although I don’t know what that looks like right now, I am looking forward to finding out.

Featured Image by Hannah Brown

Written by: Autumn McGowan

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