Ask any college student what the number one piece of advice they are given, most would respond, “These are the best years of your life. Enjoy it while it lasts.” The pressure that those words bring, a pressure to be the best you can be right now, assumes that life is only going to be worse for the person you will become. According to these advisors, you are doomed to never be as happy as you are right now. This statement, and the attitude it influences, is to blame for college students’ unhealthy lifestyle.
The people giving this advice are speaking to their past selves. These advisors look through rose-colored glasses; they long for the time when they had no responsibility. Advisees, the young with no responsibility, do not want to hear this statement. They are craving the responsibility that they know they can handle. The perfect combination of these two desires, craving freedom with reasonable responsibility, is college life. However, the young who are desperate to grow up and those who long for their youth often forget about the entire process of growing, and how difficult that part is. College puts you in a position where you feel a complete lack of control. There are only a few things you can tangibly control, like how many drinks you have on Friday and how much sleep you are going to get tonight. In an attempt to feel more in control, college students behave recklessly.
These advisors look through rose-colored glasses; they long for the time when they had no responsibility.
The purpose of a college education is to set you up for your future. When you begin your college career, you must decide right away what your degree is in, what your future career will be. A semester has barely begun before you are planning for the next. You schedule classes for spring semester before fall semester comes close to ending. You move into your dorm or apartment in late August, but by early October, you must figure out where you will be living the following August. You must get an internship to prepare for your future career. This system of education makes you feel like you have no control over your time. You have no time to enjoy the “best years of your life.”
When a person feels a lack of control, they do what they can to regain that control in other aspects of their lives. Namely, beginning to take part in excessive drinking, smoking or other “unhealthy” activities. You drink excessively because you can. You smoke because you can. You stay up late because you can. The reason these characteristics are commonly associated with college students is not because college students are inherently irresponsible, but because the fast paced, “what’s next?” attitude of college breeds this type of behavior.
We are standing on the border: unsure of what is before us, but no longer belonging to what is behind.
College students are not-quite adults, no longer treated like teens. This teenager-adult is constantly conflicted, torn between who they are becoming and who they are. We are standing on the border: unsure of what is before us, but no longer belonging to what is behind.
Hannah Barras is a third-year student majoring in communication studies and minoring in journalism. HB888984@wcupa.edu