A definition of what college should be won’t help anyone…
When I came to college, I expected what I didn’t get from high school.
I heard from family and friends what a good college experience should include: living in a Pinterest-worthy dorm, finding life-long best friends, going out all the time with said friends, figuring out exactly what I wanted to do with my life and choosing the perfect major on my first try.
Whether it be from what is seen on social media, television, or friends, these are merely idealized expectations and add an extra unnecessary pressure.
When I came to Vanguard as a freshman, I tightly held onto those idealized attributes, strongly believing this was the only way it could be.
It took me two years to realize that this so-called perfect college experience is not what I would get. It wasn’t even what I entirely wanted. And, to be completely honest, I think I held onto that unattainable expectation for the sake of fitting in.
In the end, I met my own sort of attributes for a “good” college experience. I may not have had the most Pinterest-worthy decor, but I did appreciate the experience of dorm life and finding my own independence. I did find a best friend. And, after some confusion my freshman year, I did find the right major and career path. Yet, it didn’t fulfill my first set of expectations for what college would be.
As much as I was once discontent with this realization — even spending the last year still searching for those experiences — I’m now very happy with how things turned out.
I am content with the fact that, while I may not have a big group of friends, I met my best friend here. Even if our friendship doesn’t last a lifetime, I will be able to look back on the time that I did have with her and be grateful for it.
While my life plans were confusing at first, I’m happy with my post-grad plans.
While there have been challenges with living on-campus, I am grateful to have been given time in a safe space to grow individually before I move off campus.
While at the beginning of my time at Vanguard I craved constant community (especially in the form of late night food runs), I am now perfectly content watching a movie with my roommate and boyfriend during open hours rather than be in the backseat of a crowded Prius driving to Canes at 12 a.m.
And, while I may have had to say no to going out with friends and attending events on campus because I had homework, I can now graduate and start my career a year early.
While some students have a more straightforward experience, most of us require a bit of time finding out what we truly want.
For those fighting through the disappointment of college life not being what you thought it would be, I want to let you know that it is OK.
It’s OK not to have the perfect dorm. You can still have a memorable and quality experience even if you don’t live on campus. I know sometimes commuters can feel left out from the Vanguard community, but a quality community can be found wherever you go, whether on campus, at church, or in the workplace.
While not everyone meets a best friend here, it doesn’t mean the friendships during their time here didn’t add to the quality of their overall experience. It’s even OK not to spend time hanging out with people and, instead, focus on other responsibilities like homework, health, work, and family.
Not having the expected college experience doesn’t mean that your experience is any less, or any better, than another’s. The experience you have should be different because it was what was best for you and what you were able to make during your time here.
What truly matters is that you are content with what you have made with your time here.