During my walk past Sample Gates the other day, I came to the startling realization that I didn’t love college. It caught me off guard, but was a sentiment I had expressed to friends and family before, though it was usually dismissed with “I’m sure it’s not that bad” or “give it some time, things can only get better from here.”
At a certain point, though, I had to be brutally honest. While freshman and sophomore year shine with joy and positive memories, I now have two semesters left, and I am most definitely not having the time of my life.
What’s most important about my conclusion is that it’s totally normal. College isn’t going to be “the greatest four years” of everybody’s life. Pretending like it has to be trivializes the breadth of positive and negative experiences many students face throughout their higher education.
In high school, I was bombarded with the notion that college would be a picture-perfect experience. Parents, relatives, friends and teachers described college as the overlap between your last few years of adolescence and the introduction of adult responsibilities.
When that’s all you hear, you form an unconscious expectation that college will be nothing but fun. But for my college graduation class and many others, I’ve sensed a growing disappointment in our collective college experiences.
Recently, I have been astounded by how many online forums and articles include students asking, “I hate college, what do I do?” or “Absolutely hate college - is this normal?”
Why do people think not enjoying college is atypical? Why do people feel so strongly about it?
To answer these questions, I looked towards my own experience. It’s upsetting for me to say that college has fared considerably worse than my high school experience. I feel grateful that I have the opportunity to pursue higher education, and in no way do I mean to sound ungrateful. College has brought me enjoyment, valuable life lessons and learning experiences.
But the past few years have been full of drastic change, anxiety, fear and uncertainty, most notably because of the pandemic. I’ve watched my own college experience quickly teeter from spending all of my time in classes, clubs and going out with friends to isolating in my house, taking classes from our beds, and taking necessary measures to keep my friends healthy.
The pandemic robbed college students of the usual social experience and, in all honesty, has made my life drastically more depressing.
But on top of that, many college students go through some of their first adult experiences in college. Many of us sign leases and live with people other than our family for the first time, go through friendship shifts, struggle academically and change our career paths—all while growing into a more mature version of ourselves.
When all of that work coincides with a pandemic, rigorous academics and career preparation, we have a lot of stressors on our plates.
So I understand where my peers are coming from. College is really hard. But instead of feeling like something is wrong with ourselves for not enjoying the microcosm of our few college years, let’s allow ourselves some understanding and validate those feelings.
College can’t be enjoyable 100% of the time for everyone. Sometimes you have to allow yourself room to grow, do the best work possible and know you’re not alone.
Chris Sciortino (he/him) is a junior studying theater and public relations. He is involved with the Queer Student Union and College Democrats at IU.