College is an opportunity for a world of self-scaffolding that shapes you into the person that one day you will be known for being.
There’s a lot of pressure on these four years. To succeed, to do well academically, socially, mentally, and also physically. All of these pressures can be stressful and at times make you feel like you’re lacking… Or worse, that your college experience is lacking.
Throughout your four years of college, you are consistently thrown into a world of independence that have no yet experienced before if you are fortunate. Because of this, higher education yields you tons of benefits from your simple attendance and active processing of the work, colleagues, friends, professors, and everything else that collides with you whilst upon your college conquest.
Interestingly, college has its stereotypes. People usually associate partying, late night study binges, and hot flings with college because of Hollywood’s influence on the perception of getting your degree. College is often titled the glory years, or even the best years of your life. However, the college experience completely varies by person. Which is something I’m sure you know, but a lot of people get caught up on. Because of the endless opportunities to explore people that are different from you – including people who are involved in clubs, programs, and activities that you never thought you would be interested in, you are more inclined to find out some things about yourself that others naturally wouldn’t.
My freshman year I was always very self-conscious of my college experience. I wanted it to live up to my expectations of being an endless party and I used to often kick myself in the stomach for not going out more. My roommate at the time noticed this and she was always very adamant in telling me that my college experience was MY college experience to create.
The following year, my sophomore year, I made the same mistake twice. I joined a Panhellenic sorority thinking that it would completely change my experience of college and give me the popular friends I so desperately yearned for. I really only did it because of the communal pressures around my schools campus to be affiliated with a sorority or fraternity. After my initiation, I didn’t feel like I had much in common with my sisters. It felt like a hassle to stay in touch with them or hold conversations because I frankly had nothing in common with most of them, and my timid nature wasn’t very attractive to them either. I ended up dropping the sorority less than a year later. A majority of them didn’t stick around to stay my friend. This was my first reality call.
The more and more I experienced in college, the more cemented things about myself became. I knew that I didn’t like to party because every time I went out I was always wishing I was at home. I knew that I wasn’t a big event girl and didn’t always look forward to huge events where there was a guaranteed social gathering because for the most part, I hated putting up a guise about myself. I knew, naturally, that I wasn’t a girly girl and didn’t have much in common with a good number of girls that I met. Once I was finally okay with this, I was finally able to really treasure my true college experience.
I stopped forcing myself to go out and party and drink alcohol like all of my “cool” friends were doing. Instead I opted out and spent a lot of my weekends at home with a few of my close friends, talking about literature and art or going on nature hikes or making pot luck dinners and having a genuinely great time. Instead of going to humongous social gatherings for the associations I’m involved in, I’ve made a point of still reaching out to others and creating genuine friendships out of my interactions. Instead of forcing myself upon girls who, to be completely honest, didn’t see themselves being my friend, I started hanging out with my geeky guy friends who would rather play Magic the Gathering all night with some pizza and Mountain Dew than go partying. I started cherishing my friendships with everyone, regardless of their social status or whether their interests could be categorized as “cool” or “trendy.” And the result? Happiness! Absolute and utter happiness!
The biggest lesson that we all unfortunately have to go through is learning how to be okay with yourself. There are so many pressures now, including the pressures of social media, that force people to believe that they aren’t normal because they’re nothing like the people on TV, in magazines or in Facebook or Youtube videos. The great thing however is that you don’t have to be! You are guaranteed a college experience, and whether those are the best years of your life is your choice to decide.
Ultimately, your college experience is made up of what you make it. So make sure that you’re surrounding yourself with people that really do share the same values as you but have different perspectives, viewpoints, and opinions. These people are detrimental to your growth and provide you with more insight on the world as a whole. It doesn’t have to be the best years of your life! And most people don’t peak in college! So, literally just enjoy doing you and don’t sit around for long periods trying to validate why you’re so different from everybody else. The guaranteed college experience is naturally a part of going to college and the development of you.