I never understood why people say that college is ‘the best four years of your life’. Are you telling me that it’s all downhill from here? Is that supposed to make me feel good? Well it doesn’t, so cut it out.
It’s simply not true.
We’ve known for a long time that happiness is relative. In the long term, your happiness levels remain roughly the same. According to this 1978 study from The Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, the happiness levels of individuals who have won the lottery only temporarily increased at the time of winning, but eventually returned to pre-winning levels. Similar results were found among individuals who suffered a paralyzing accident. The fact of the matter is that there will be no single period of heightened happiness, and there is no cliff leading into a forever less-happy state.
There is a risk of this becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy. Those who are quick to believe the mumbo-jumbo will likely spend time worrying if it’s becoming true. They’re also more likely to succumb to confirmation bias, only recognizing things that confirm their prior expectations. The solution to all this is to recognize that the past four years have been a blast, and there’s no reason why the next four shouldn’t be the same way!
So what's going on?
Why do people say it if it’s not true? This 2016 research paper from the Journal of Experimental Psychology points out that individuals often reflect on their past experiences with a more positive light than is justified, citing our subconscious tendency to selectively remember certain experiences. It’s the ‘someday-we’ll-look-back-on-this-and-laugh’ effect. So really what’s happening is that older folks THINK that college was the best years, when in reality it wasn’t.
Alright? Alright. Now instead of worrying about what’s going to happen, let’s focus on more productive things, like actually crafting your future (stay tuned for a post on that topic!). Have a blast in the next few months of college, and don’t feel bad about it. Don’t feel like it’s the last time you’ll ever have fun again, and that the rest of your life is going to be one huge boring working-life montage, because it’s simply untrue. The best is always yet to come…