“College is the best four years of your life.”

This is a phrase that most of us have grown up with. It came from our parents when they recounted their glory days at the ol’ alma mater. It made its way into conversations with our teachers as they helped us navigate our college applications. And who among us didn’t hear it from an older relative as they wished us well at our graduation party?

This concept of college being “the peak,” “the ultimate,” “the best it gets,” has become ingrained in our society. It’s the expectation most of us have when we arrive here as freshmen – “This is it, this is when life gets good.”

It also influences how we perceive our college experience as we settle into university life. When things get tough and we’re stressed, tired, lonely, and miss home, the little voice in the back of our head begins to doubt – “If these are the best years of my life, what’s it going to be like after I graduate?”

Others of us strive to live up to the expectation of greatness imposed on us by this notion that the college years are superior. We rationalize excessive partying, risky behavior, and over-commitments to extracurricular swith the logic: “Hey, these are the best years of my life – I’d better make the most of them.”

But sooner or later, suffering grades or failing relationships snap us back to reality and force us to recognize that our “four best years” might be cut short if we don’t knuckle down.

For me, the infamous best-year phrase has never sparked visions of an idealistic college life. It hasn’t influenced my attitude about college and it’s not something I measure myself against. When I’m suffering from a lack of sleep, haven’t been to the gym in weeks, or don’t have time to go out with my friends every weekend, I never wonder if I’m doing it – college – wrong.

We go to a school whose motto is “Ever Better,” and as cheesy as it sounds, when it comes to what I want my life to look like, nothing does a better job of summing up my perspective. Yes, I want my time here to be wonderful and unforgettable. But I don’t want my life to peak at age 21.

College is a time for experiencing the unfamiliar. These are the years of self-discovery and the time to prepare for our futures. We meet lifelong friends here and begin to figure out that all-important question of what we want to be when we grow up.

But while our college years may be unique – an amazing once-in-a-lifetime experience – these years shouldn’t be the pinnacle of our aspirations.

By the time we graduate from college, we still have the great majority of our lives before us to fill with happiness, success, fulfillment, and new experiences. Why shouldn’t each new year be the best we’ve ever had? What’s stopping us from expecting this and making it a reality?

This isn’t to say that the future won’t be full of struggles even more challenging than finals week. But in buying into the idea that college is the best four years of our lives, we prevent ourselves from appreciating the value of what’s to come.

Life should be about realizing our passions, helping others, making a difference, and a whole lot of other things. But it shouldn’t be about restricting ourselves to four short years of “best” and being content to let all that follows be less.

As current college students, these four years at UR should be the best we’ve ever had. But they shouldn’t be the best we ever will have.

In some ways, “Meliora” has turned into a sort of cliché, something we hashtag when we’re feeling ironic. But when it comes to having an “Ever Better” life, perhaps we should set the irony aside and recognize the importance of the Meliora philosophy.

Rudd is a member of

the class of 2017.

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