Doc Seidman Says….
….Going away to college can bring about a whole litany of emotions. It can be fun. It can be scary. It can be enjoyable. It can be depressing. It can be life-changing. It can be anxiety-riddled. It can be many things. Most important, however, it should be productive. If the college did its job, you should leave a much better person than when you started.
More people than ever are now attending college. That is the good news. The bad news is that more people than ever are struggling with the experience. Mental health concerns are on the rise as college leaders scramble to put systems in place to address this. Whereas this is certainly a growing concern, lest not forget that for most students, the college experience is favorable. It is positive. It is memorable. And most important, the years spent there are productive. The experience not only leads to better opportunities in life, it leads to a better life.
Whereas data show that graduates of a four-year program earn more money over their lifetime than their counterparts who do not graduate (over $1,000,000), there are other, less tangible benefits the experience brings. I classify these as the “FFO” benefits: Friends, Freedom, and Opportunity. They represent the bright side; experiences that will make going away to college a positive one. But don’t just take my word, take the word of recent graduates. When asked, they were all too happy to share the positive experiences college gave them. And almost in lockstep, they all said the same thing.
You may not know it when you are in college, but the people in your orbit, be it near or far, may become lifelong friends. It could be someone as obvious as your buddy who you hang around with regularly, or, it could be someone much less obvious such as the person you see occasionally in the dining hall. You just never know. It could be someone who lives in your dorm, or someone sitting in the same literature class. It could be someone you regularly run into at the campus Starbucks, or even someone who exercises on the same elliptical machine you do.
In today’s techno-driven world, it’s easy to stay connected. You can casually stay in touch after college via social media and deepen that relationship over time. After all, you have that commonality built in; you all attend the same school and share the same experiences, for better or worse.
Friends become like family. Sociologists will probably tell you that good friends replace your family over time. They are there for you. They’ll be at your wedding and celebrate special occasions with you. They’ll be there for you during good times and bad times. That’s what friends do. And that’s what college does. It creates friends.
Almost everyone would agree that the freedom going away to college brings is a double-edged sword. Nobody is now forcing you to attend that 9:00 AM class. That’s the good news. The bad news is nobody is forcing you to attend that 9:00 AM class. But putting aside the issues all that newfound freedom brings, freedom, if managed correctly, can be a great thing. It can help you grow and learn. It can open the door for your curiosities and bring you new experiences. Being away in college gets you out of the bubble of the world your parents provided for you and allows you to pursue your curiosities. Whether it’s meeting new people or exploring newfound sexual freedoms, simply feeling free is something to be cherished. Going away to college provides that. (Don’t let your parents lecture you about this. More than likely they enjoyed their freedoms too, back in the day.)
No matter where you attend college, opportunities abound. You have an opportunity to study new things, travel to new places, and explore new cultures. You can have your resume spruced up at a career service office and find an internship or cool job at an exciting company. While you’re at it, apply for many jobs. You’re a college student. You are in demand. Get to know your professors. They’re not all old and crusty. And besides, they may very well serve as a lifelong reference. You can learn a new language, a new musical instrument, or even a new sport. (My freshman year roommate was from the deep south. First thing he wanted to do in our upstate New York university was learn how to ski.) You can find a new hobby or discover a new passion. Opportunities are everywhere; you just need to go after them. Many graduates look back on their experience and regret they did not take advantage of everything college provided them. Whereas it’s rare to find the person who does everything, don’t be regretful. Take advantage. Learn new things.
True, the college experience can certainly have a dark side. That’s normal. (Life does too, as a matter of point.) It is o.k. to acknowledge this. If the experience leaves you sad and anxious, seek the help you need, but try and look at the bright side. There are so many great experiences out there for you to discover and enjoy. Find them and jump in. Take advantage of all that college has to offer. And if the college does its job, you will leave a better person. Students must do their part too. If you do, there is no doubt that you will leave a better person.
Yes, college does have a bright side.
*Special thanks to the outstanding staff at Affordable College Prep for their guidance with this post