There's an unmistakable illumination in the eyes of adults who will tell you that college is the best four years of your life.
With a nostalgic sigh, my chemistry teacher reiterates the phrase summing up her collegiate experience. She remembers dropping dry ice off a campus bridge with her classmates. I'm sure that's not everyone's idea of a night to reminisce, but it was at MIT that she found her niche among students who shared her unique passions. A community of people who wanted to cultivate her pursuit of scientific discovery is to thank for such a fervently genuine teacher.
As my senior year approaches, I hear it more and more. "College is going to be the best four years of your life" is beaten beyond cliché by earnest tongues. But I want to challenge that notion, because I fear it teaches students to seek out a college that will best serve them during those four years but not after that.
The best thing since what now? Image via sodahead.com
When you begin your college search, allow the student meals, building aesthetics, campus parties, and all things of that sort to be a microcosm of the college experience you want. While they are important, they aren’t nearly as important as finding a college that best knows how to enrich the successful person you want to be for the rest of your life.
That means different things for every individual, because every college has the perfect niche for a different type of individual. For some, the perfect college may require the most competitive program they can be accepted to. For others, it may require a certain ambience their character can blossom in, such as a liberal school or an environmentally active school.
As for myself, I know I learn best when surrounded by peers who challenge me to excel in my subject. When surrounded by people who are focused on their own success, I'm much less likely to lose sight of my long-term goals. This is why I love to search for students on the green engaged in ardent debates when I go on college tours. I look to feel electricity in the atmosphere of lectures I look in on.
Because there are such a variety of schools with the charismatic student body character that I both admire and hope to discipline myself into, I have an array of schools to choose from. Knowing what I'm looking for in that sense, I can delve deeper into a promising school and become more particular. Accommodating campus gyms, strong internship opportunities, lively nearby cities, and spacious dorms really drive home a school I am already excited about.
I don't doubt that before my senior year comes to a close, I'll hear "college is the best four years of your life" many more times. I hope they're right. But more than that, I hope the four years ahead of me will help me have the best life I can live.