It’s hard to be a college student. Every moment is uncertain because of the expectations society thrusts upon the college experience. Students are often told to do things one way, but then immediately told to do things another way, so they constantly face contradictions.
They spend their time walking the line between suggestions and trying to juggle too many things at once. Here are a few of the contradictions that college students face every day and why it’s so hard for them to keep up.
1. The classic balance between social life, overall health and good grades.
Everyone has seen that classic meme where it tells you to choose two out of the three choices between having a social life, having good overall physical and mental health and getting good grades.
This is something college students struggle with on a daily basis because as they make choices throughout the day, like when to do homework or when and what to eat, they juggle those three aspects and decide which road to take.
Although it is definitely possible to successfully juggle all three aspects, not everyone is in a perfect state of mind or is ready to take on all three tasks. One in four college students have a diagnosable mental illness; school is getting harder and harder for students and the expectations placed on them are also getting higher.
Students with mental illness then have multiple activities and assignments on their plates, which in return forces them to choose between “The Holy Trinity” of social life, health and academic success.
Choosing between the three paths also presents a struggle with the apparent party culture that colleges have. Sometimes students unconsciously choose social life and overall health just because of the environment they’re in.
Colleges develop a “party school” reputation, which sounds appealing to some, but it can make it harder for students to juggle their social life, health and good grades. One in four students reports academic consequences from drinking.
Not to say that if you party in college you’re going to flunk out, but the understanding that a college is a party school definitely makes it harder for students to juggle the “The Holy Trinity.”
2. No time for a job, but college is extremely expensive.
College is only getting harder and more expensive. The average college student’s debt is about $23,000. On average, students take 15 credit hours, also accounting additional time for studying, so there is virtually no time for a full-time student to make any source of money.
When students do find the time to take on a part-time job, it’s rare that the job pays enough to help pay for tuition and other expenses. Although there are students who have parents that provide for them, college students usually find themselves without any money because they don’t have time for a job.
Today, college is 400 percent more expensive than it was 30 years ago. College is an extremely expensive and time-consuming part of life that is starting to become more of a luxury, rather than something that should be accessible to everyone.
3. Students should do what they love, but they should make a lot of money.
At just 18 years old, college students are expected to have some kind of idea as to what they want to study that will, ultimately, determine what they want to do for the rest of their lives. People often say you should do what you love, but then they also tell you that you need to make a substantial amount of money in order to provide for yourself.
An average 50 to 70 percent of college students change their major at least once and each one sets students up for starkly different pay grades. For those who enjoy business and know that they want to dedicate their life to business, they will undoubtedly be in good shape.
But for those who enjoy and want to dedicate their lives to something that doesn’t have a good average pay scale, they get stuck facing a decision between being happy with their studies or settling for a safer major because they will be guaranteed to be able to make a living.
While this is not a decision everyone has to face in their life, most college students still face similar situations where they have to choose between what they love and what they should do.
4. “College is the best four years of your life.”
Although this isn’t a contradiction, it is an expectation many college students are expected to live up to and it also sets the bar extremely high for college. What a lot of people tend to forget about college is that it is just school. Over the past 50 years, the college experience has changed dramatically in terms of the resources a student has access to, as well as what the norm is in regards to living and student life.
The expectation that college is supposed to set you up for the rest of your life, in terms of social and professional life, is misleading because in reality college is, on average, just six percent of your entire life.
The pressure to have a sound social and professional life by the end of college often causes students to make critical decisions concerning their social life, overall health and good grades, as stated previously. But students shouldn’t have to choose between these three aspects of life — they should be thinking about how to maximize their life and live it to the fullest.
5. Life isn’t a race, but graduate in four years and find a job right after.
This contradiction, which is strongly connected with ones previously listed, is one that I find college students struggle with the most. It contradicts the notion that “college is the best four years of your life” since you also need to graduate as soon as possible in order to start working.
One out of two college graduates who were 25 years old or younger were unemployed or underemployed in 2011. Although this study was conducted about seven years ago, the impact of the study still remains. College students are expected to go straight from school to the workforce when that isn’t the reality for many students.
Not only are some students unable to get jobs right out of college, but they would also rather take a year to travel. Although some students study abroad in college, the expectation that students should work right after college contradicts the “life isn’t a race” philosophy.