STAFF OPINION: These aren’t the best years of our lives

By Mia Werner | December 3, 2021 7:15am

Media Credit: Brennan Crowder / The Beacon

“College will be the best four years of your life.”

We’ve all heard it — spoken by parents at high school graduations, alumni at campus events, tour guides selling you on the investment. It has become popular culture that from ages 18-22, we can be found participating in a daily kegger, laughing with friends and smiling as we walk to class. We are taught that these four years are the ones to look forward to and will someday be the ones we wish we could get back to. 

Six days from now, on a random Thursday in December, I will become a college graduate. I can tell you with certainty now that college was not the best four years of my life. In fact, it might’ve been some of the worst. 

Now, I will admit I’ve had an unusually unlucky road. Between my freshman and sophomore year, I visited urgent care 15 times with various illnesses, once after almost losing a finger to a pair of scissors. I spent half of my college career learning online during a global pandemic. I’ve felt lonely and helpless and depressed and anxious. 

But I’ve also felt empowered and fulfilled and triumphant. 

We should not expect these years to be the rose-colored movie that we’ve dreamt of. What we should expect is that we will struggle just as much as we will feel joy. What we should be doing is learning and growing, even when it's painful. 

By perpetuating the myth that college is supposed to be the best time of your life, we are setting up young adults for failure. In a study done by the Mayo Clinic, 44% of college students reported having symptoms of depression and anxiety. Of those that were struggling, 75% were reluctant to seek help. 

I believe this is in part because we have convinced ourselves that there is something wrong with those of us that don’t find college to be incredible. I spent semester after semester feeling like something was missing. If this was as good as it was supposed to get, what on earth did I have to look forward to in adulthood? I didn’t want to tell my friends that I didn’t want to go to a party, that I was really just looking forward to my 30s.

This is not to discount the experiences of people that love college. There is plenty to love about the university experience. In fact, despite everything that made these years so difficult for me, I can think of an equal amount that has empowered me to become who I want to be. I had professors make me feel intelligent, coworkers challenge me to be better, and friends help me stand on my own two feet even when I thought I couldn’t. 

Perhaps we need to shift our narrative from the movie-like four years to a trailer for the human experience. Our lives will be filled with hardship, grief, joy, love, and so much more. We should expect that college won’t be any different, except that these are excellent years to make mistakes and be bad at it. When else will I be able to be late half the time, show up in my pajamas, and still get an A+? Never. 

It's time we have a frank conversation with ourselves and each other and agree to drop the expectation of the best four years. Let's instead agree to hold each other's hands through it, to admit when it gets hard, and to have some fun in between. 

To those of you that are like me, that are looking around hoping things will get better, I promise you it will. I am so grateful for what I’ve learned and experienced in college and the adult I became because of it. However, I am even more excited for the long life ahead of me. Those will all be my best years, I know it. 

Mia Werner is the Opinions and Faith Editor for The Beacon. She can be reached at

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