by Tara Touloumis

For four years from exactly 7:30 a.m. to approximately 9 p.m., my life was dedicated to Cranford High School. For over 12 hours, I attended class, participated in clubs, ran varsity track and religiously completed my homework. For what did I have such extreme diligence and dedication?

All of my hours of sweat, work and school spirit were devoted to shaping myself as a “well rounded” candidate with “strong interests” who could really “contribute” to a college campus.

In other words, I just wanted an acceptance letter. College seemed to be a force larger than life, and your whole future depended solely on the arrival of that big acceptance letter (or that heart-wrenching rejection). It wasn’t just a force; it was a mind-set, a mantra. Didn’t get into Boston College? Have fun working at Stop n’ Shop for the rest of your life, fool!

Once admitted and settled into college, one would think this unrealistic, hectic student schedule would dissolve as the undergraduate found his or her niche. Nevertheless, much to my surprise, it has only gotten worse.

Many people associate college with incredible parties raging until the wee hours, regrettable hookups and an endless flow of cheap alcohol. What fails to be described in this common stereotype is the juggling of volunteerism with real world jobs, the multitude of honor societies, the demanding clubs and student associations, and the ever-increasing prevalence of double majors.

The four years once associated with hours of free time are now being tied to hours of half-hearted obligations. The competition has intensified. We are still competing for acceptance letters, only these aren’t for college. We compete for a spot in the even higher realm of graduate school or for the opportunity to make a living in the job market. Much more is at stake now; this is the rest of your life.

After all, if you’re not president of FUSA, while at the same time president of the politics club, a weekly volunteer for Hunger Cleanup, an intern in Washington, an international globetrotter, fluent in six languages (including Japanese), a critically acclaimed author, and the dictator of a small country, well then I’m sorry, you are just not qualified for this entry-level position!

In this spirit of competition and keeping up with the Jones’ overachieving son or daughter, we have all become stressed out, depressed, exhausted, over-committed students whose last priority is often academics or even worse, keeping up with friends. How could you not know your friend was engaged? Oh right, you were single-handedly discovering the cure for cancer.

By no means am I arguing that college students should discontinue their volunteer work or good deeds. Likewise, I am not encouraging that students trade books for booze. Rather, I encourage you to remember to make time for the little things.

See a movie at the $3 theatre. Take a walk on the beach with a friend and catch up. Four years from now, will you recall getting a C+ on your marketing exam? Probably not. Will you remember all the magnificent people you’ve met, as well as novel experiences you’ve had during the four year ride known as college? Definitely.

As Tom Petty says, “Quit worrying about the stupid things. You have four years to be carefree. Relax. Work is for people with jobs. You’ll never remember class time, but you’ll remember time hanging out with your friends. So stay out late, go out on a Tuesday night when you have a paper due on Wednesday. Spend money you don’t have. Drink until sunrise. The world never ends, but college does.”

Agreed, enjoy it while it lasts.

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