Under Pressure: Not loving college and why that’s ok



Matthew Sheridan

“Do you love it?” my friend’s mom said one day over Thanksgiving break.

“Yeah, it’s great,” I responded instinctively, in the way that we train ourselves to do when we’re making small talk with a parent. On the outside, it seemed like an innocuous question with a simple answer. On the inside, though, I was kind of taken aback. 

“Well, no, I don’t love it,” I thought to myself. “Is that wrong?”

This one question seemed to represent a huge part of what the early days of college can be. It seems as if we’re expected to go to college and not just like it, or enjoy it, or tolerate it—we’re expected to love it, and if we don’t something’s up.

In high school we visit a veritable children’s book of universities. Public ones, private ones. Big ones, small ones. Red ones, blue ones. We look at every detail of a school—how the food is, how big the dorm rooms are, what kind of sports they have, if they have our major, if we have to pay for laundry—before finally, one spring night after baseball practice or before hanging out with friends or as we’re lying down in bed the night before an AP exam, and decide where we want to go. 

We do the requisite announcements to our parents and maybe our siblings. We’ll probably text a few friends, too. But that’s all trivial compared to the real announcement, which is updating your preferred form of social media. 

“JOHN DOE GOES TO VILLANOVA UNIVERSITY, CLASS OF 2019.” Until then, you could still change your mind and be no worse for whatever school t-shirt you’re wearing. But now, it’s real. All your friends know, that kid in your history class that you can’t stand knows, Aunt Louise in Wisconsin knows. You’ve made your decision, and that’s awesome. It gets celebrated, as it should. This is the one for you. Everything is perfect and you can’t wait to get there and have a great time and meet people and learn about the world and about yourself and it’s all just going to be perfect and you’re going to love it.

But then you get there, and for whatever reason, things don’t click. Classes are intriguing and you’ve met some good people, but it’s not like you’re leading the marching band out on the field at halftime. It’s hard to explain, because on paper this was the place for you, but things just haven’t worked out the way you expected them to.

Meanwhile, you go on Facebook, and it seems like everybody else is having a blast. All your friends from home seem like they’re out every night or repping their school colors on a college football Saturday, and all the people in your orientation group already seem like lifelong ’Novans.

A couple of days after that conversation at home, I was playing football with some friends and talking to somebody two years older who asked, “So, how do you like ’Nova?” This was a good friend of mine, so I answered honestly. “It’s good, but it’s not like I’d rather be there than here,” I said sheepishly. He looked at me and said, “Well, yeah. I started feeling that way like, this year.”

Hearing that was like music to my ears. Finally, I realized that other people felt the same way that I did. Not only was what he said great, but also the way he said it. It was plain, matter-of-fact, as if it was the most obvious thing in the world that he didn’t LOVE it either.

In talking to people since then, I’ve come to realize that way more people than I thought felt the exact same way. Maybe they missed home and their friends, maybe school was too tough or too easy, maybe they wanted to be at another school. And almost everybody had another thing in common—they didn’t know other people were like this and they didn’t know that it was okay to feel that way. 

This isn’t to say everyone hates his or her freshman year. It’s literally just to say that there’s a chance that it isn’t what you expected, and that that is perfectly fine. 

There’s so much going on through your first few months, how can you realistically be expected to love it?

At Villanova, you’ll meet people who truly do love Villanova and are more than happy to let you know about it, as they have every right to. It’s a legitimately great place to make friends, learn and grow. But if, for whatever reason, that isn’t you, that’s okay too.

Between the prying parents, the posturing on social media that we see everyday and the general hype around college, there’s an intense pressure to love school. That just isn’t going to be the case for everybody, though. Even if it isn’t what you thought it might be here, you’re still learning and growing about yourself and about others every day, and at the end of the day, that’s what you hope to get out of your time here. No place is perfect, not even here, but that doesn’t mean it still can’t become great, even if it takes a little while.