Should college be marketed as the best four years of life?

John J. Miller points out that the idea that college should be the best four years of one’s life, brought to his attention by a University of Michigan mailer, is an odd goal.

I tend to agree – and have a few thoughts about this:

1. This is a terrible setup for the rest of life. If students think that life is downhill after college (which is implied with sayings like this), then this could turn into a self-fulfilling prophecy. Perhaps it suggests that the college life (or at least its lifestyle) should be extended before one has to “get real” and pursue more adult goals. Adult life certainly is different than college life – but this idea suggests it is the peak of life and adult life, in comparison, is lacking.

2. How does this work for students who find that college is not the best four years of their life? The college experience does not appeal to everyone nor is it perfect. If you were not thrilled with everything in college, should you feel guilt? Remorse? Did you miss something? College is not just a fun time – it is a period of transition from being a teenager to being an adult and this can be a difficult process.

3. When did this shift from college being preparation to college being “an experience” happen? Which is the more important goal, particularly for a society that hopes to have productive and learned citizens? At the same time, if one is paying $20-50k a year for college, it had better be a good experience…