I was going to speak on behalf of "all" college kids here but I decided against it since the independent college students deserve the spotlight here, and that isn't "everyone."
If you're in college and are independent of your parents in any way, there's a huge conflict of interest between happiness and responsibility. Everyone older than you will tell you to enjoy your four years away at school, and that "it's the best four years of your life." But everyone older than you doesn't carry the same weight you carry when it comes to your college career.
You, the independent college student, carry a much bigger burden than some of the people around you.
Everything that surrounds your life, from your backpack to the apartment you live in, you have paid for out of your pocket. At some point, you have even paid for your tuition.
Maybe your whole life you have been financially independent, and you knew even as a freshman that managing your finances would be harder than ever. Part of me knows everyone in college has to manage their finances in some way. But if you're figuring out how to finance loans, apply for grants, have a part-time job all the while trying to enjoy your time away at college, that's a whole other level of responsibility and self-management.
Being aware of your spending becomes extremely difficult when you see the people around you spending money with ease, with the luxury of asking their parents for help when they need it. It's when you can't lean on anyone for help that you feel the most helpless and the worst about your situation, no matter how many times someone tells you "you're so responsible, it'll pay off in the end."
It is so hard to enjoy your life when you are worried about when your check will deposit into your account or when you don't know where to turn when it comes to paying for big things, like your tuition.
Yes, being financially independent teaches you a hell of a lot about what it means to be an adult. No, being in charge of all your finances isn't easy.
You have to constantly be conscious of your spending, which makes "living your best life" like everyone else a distant dream. While you have learned to balance your expenses and still have an enjoyable life, it's hard to not fear being short of money in the future to pay for rent or a car repair.
At no point are you weak for giving into your happiness, treating yourself, or asking for help from the resources around you.
This is your reminder that sometimes you have to treat yourself because you, the independent college student, know better than anyone how to balance your wants and your needs.
You need to make yourself a need. Your happiness is important regardless of how much money is in your bank account.
You are more than a "broke college student."
It isn't easy to figure things out on your own but so far you've got yourself to some pretty cool places all on your own. You've learned how to make conscious choices about what you do with your time and money. And I'm sure you've had some fun along the way despite all the tough decisions you've had to make.
How satisfying is it to know that you are building a life for yourself, all on your own?
While it is the hardest journey you've had thus far, you've gone further than you've ever imagined.
Take this as a reminder to continue to work on yourself for yourself, every single day.
Don't forget to follow that big dream you have in the back of your head. Someone like you can accomplish big things since you already have the discipline to accomplish what you set your mind to.
You've gotten this far without much help, so why not dream a little bit bigger and work a little harder? You know what it takes to get where you want to be, so do it. Realize all you've done for yourself since your freshman year, and accept how great your life is going to be when college is over... all because you focused your energy and resources into all the right places.