"Do you ever feel like you're missing out on the college experience?" a friend asks me, as we sit in on our campus coffee shop before our next class.
She shows me pictures of people who go to other colleges, going to parties, going to football games, constantly moving and shaking. I was ready to answer no, because I don't feel like there is any part of my life that I am missing out on. I am active in my school's community and while we are not the biggest school in the nation, I wouldn't ask to go anywhere else. That's when I started to wonder, what is the college experience?
As I do with most questions I don't know the answer to, I Googled it. My first result was a cute list of 15 things everyone needs to have the "college experience". This list included things like "live in the dorms", "study abroad", and "date someone who isn't your type". The list went on and on. While this harmless list probably doesn't affect the lives of anyone who reads it, it did strike a small chord in me.
What is this college experience we all fantasize about? Is it joining every club? Attending every sporting game? Taking classes just because it sounded fun? Partying every weekend? Making as many friends as possible?
I'm sorry to break it to you, but I don't think the "college experience" exists.
In fact, I think everyone in college has their own individual experience that is exactly what they make of it.
No matter how many lists you read online or college movies you watch, college can be whatever you want it to be. Just because you don't go to a sports game or never tried to rush, doesn't mean that you are shorting yourself of anything in college. In today's society, college is tailored to your personality and your lifestyle. You make friends who may challenge you or make mistakes along the way, but overall what you decide to do with your time in college is your choice.
Live on campus. Commute from home. Move across the country. Move an hour away. Attend every party. Never stay up past 11. Join a sports team. Get a part time job. Date 12 people. Get married your senior year.
There's no wrong way to do college anymore. You can finish in three years or seven. You can take summer classes or study abroad. What matters is the money and time you are putting into college is everything you actually want to do.
Don't assume just because someone you know is having a different college experience than you, it's any less important. You can change your major, change your mind or not change anything at all and still walk away proud of what you accomplished. There's nothing wrong with taking time off of college or slowing down the pace.
The most important thing about a college experience is that you're happy while you're in it.
It's your college experience. How are you going to spend it?