Vander Graaff: College is about more than you see in the movies

Abby Vander

Editor’s Note: All opinion section content reflects the views of the individual author only and does not represent a stance taken by The Collegian or its editorial board.

Our culture creates a lot of expectations when it comes to heading off to college. Parents and mentors might tell us that college will be the best time of our lives — because it was for them. Movies such as “Animal House” or “Pitch Perfect” make it seem like college consists of becoming an adult, having a large group of friends and filling every waking moment with wild antics. 


Dealing with the pressure to have the best time in college on top of real life responsibilities can put a huge damper on the entire experience. As a student at Colorado State University, it’s important to remember that every college experience is a valid one, even if it looks nothing like the movies.

Don’t think that college can’t be fun. Fort Collins is filled with fun things to do like local concerts, house parties, hiking at Horsetooth and Thursday night Ram Band in Old Town. There’s even a fun list of things to do during Homecoming Week. 

However, a large portion of your time will be spent on schoolwork and conflicts less glorious than winning an a cappella competition or ruining a homecoming parade. These conflicts will most likely look like stress, work and the tolls of everyday life.

Becoming an adult isn’t an immediate change — but a process — and being one doesn’t make your life any more valid than it already is.

College students deal with a lot of stress, which can lead to depression or anxiety. The Anxiety and Depression Association of America notes that 75% of adults who experience anxiety have their first episode before they turn 22. 

About 30% of CSU’s students transferred from another school, and 17% are nontraditional students. There is no straight path or one way to do college.

Most of us will only be at CSU for four to five years — a tiny portion of our lives. While the experience is a privilege and will help us grow, we must remember that our time here is not going to make or break us.

resident assistant, stress, finals, textbooks, desk, tests
Balancing school, work and a personal life during college can be a hard task to do. (Davis Bonner | Collegian)

There are many reasons to go to college, but the one thing we all have in common is that we are here to grow so that we can be better people when we go on to do something else. Don’t expect your time here to define the rest of your life. Instead, use the lessons you learn to direct you to who you want to be.

The rhetoric surrounding college can sound like someone screaming down from the heavens, “This is your life. It’s finally here.But it isn’t true.

Your life happened the moment you were born, and it’s been happening ever since. Becoming an adult isn’t an immediate change — but a process — and being one doesn’t make your life any more valid than it already is.

Deny the temptation to idolize the college experience as something better than it is. This weekend, remember where you came from, and be okay with the hardships that define your past and present.


Being a college student isn’t going to change your life so that you are finally living the way you want to live. Only you can do that.

Abby Vander Graaff can be reached at or on Twitter @abbym_vg.