Shortly after entering the Utopia of all-you-can-eat dining halls and come-as-you-please elective courses, I found myself singled out as “the girl who hates college.” My peers concluded that this distaste for paradise stemmed from my apparently deficient education at a small, intimate Catholic high school. Maybe I was too sheltered, naïve, homesick, close-minded, and judgmental to welcome the free condoms and tequila shots. “Just give her time, and she’ll learn to love college. These will be the best years of her life.”
Three and a half years later, and not much has changed: I still don’t love college. While I know that higher education is not all drunken revelry, and I admire those students who seriously pursue their fields in academia, outside the quiet library lurks a persuasive demon who tells me I have no personal responsibilities beyond the practical and immediate. I am responsible for this semester’s exam grades, my college resume, and nothing else. My human dignity on hiatus, I can excuse myself from duties to my family, my future family, my vocation, and even the stewardship of my own spiritual and bodily health. (After all, “It’s not alcoholism until after college!”)
Perhaps because undergraduate education already coincides with a period of heightened self-discovery, hedonistic pursuits seem natural. Too many parents and professors feel pressured to dismiss the drunkenness and sexual promiscuity as youthful escapades they too had enjoyed. This deadly cycle of encouraged debauchery arose from the extension of the “adolescent years.” Here, a strange limbo between childhood and adulthood moved in where marriage and honest growing up had once been common. At this time of biological adulthood, “college kids” are fully capable of emotional, spiritual, and intellectual maturity, but they are expected to remain rampantly immature, taking advantage of privileges and neglecting responsibilities.
To make matters worse, it is no secret that college is being dumbed down in general, with coursework adjusted to fit the students’ capacity (or desire to work) rather than vice versa. Overcome with an entitlement complex and a backward set of ideals, we kids confuse our natural rights. Instead of living according to our true human dignity, we demand an extension of what one finds in a public high school. As a result, college has become the destination of thrill-seeking teenagers eager to enjoy a four-year Spring Break.
Fear is the cause of it all. We’re afraid to live by virtues that may conflict with our momentary feelings and desires, so we ignore them. We refuse to commit to God, because we know that such commitment entails some level of social rejection, so we pretend He doesn’t exist. While most of us like to imagine ourselves as rebels, it isn’t so. The real rebel embraces selfless love, fidelity, chivalry — even death. This is not the lesson of today’s college experience. We are encouraged to enjoy ourselves as much as we can “while we can,” as if fun ends after 25. Too often, that error is reinforced by the idea that we’ll eventually have to “settle down” and begin the drudgery of marriage or parenthood. What a sad way to miss what life has to offer.
If you’re about to start college, are currently enrolled, recently or not so recently graduated — or even if you never attended at all — don’t put it on a pedestal. Today’s college experience might be “fun,” but you can’t escape the consequences to your body, mind, and soul.
I’m not a prude who has never opened a beer or dealt with sexual temptation. I don’t spend every day at a homeless shelter or a chapel. I’ve been to the parties, tried the classes, met the people, and attended the various events. I participate in the fight song at football games and have a bulldog bumper sticker on my car. And I have made some wonderful friends here that I wouldn’t trade for the world. The last three years of my life have been awesome, but not because of the number of Facebook pictures I have holding up a red Solo cup. Rather, in this time I’ve matured as a person and grown closer to God and others.
And I’ve had a good time doing it.