You Only Have Four Years—Make the Best of Them


Matt Mersel
Executive Content Editor

Four years is not a long time. Anyone who, like me, will be graduating in a couple short weeks can tell you that. Sure, at our age, four years is roughly 20-25 percent of our lives so far. But, if you hit the average life expectancy of about 80 years in our fine(ish) country, that number becomes a measly 5 percent. Four years is not a long time. Say those words out loud. Commit them to memory. Tattoo them on your arm. Four years is nothing. You’ll be leaving this place before you know it. But don’t be sad—this is the best news you’ve heard all day.

If there’s one piece of advice my family and above-college-aged friends have never hesitated to give me, it’s this: “Enjoy college, it’s the best four years of your life.” I’m willing to bet that many of you have been told the very same thing. So, if I may, let me give you all my own advice: don’t listen to those people.

As a senior, most conversations with friends are generally the same—“Oh my god, can you believe we’re graduating? It’s too soon, I never want to leave!” The way people treat UCSB and IV, you’d think that it was our last meal before we receive a lethal injection of real life, that this is all there is for us. And while this is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful, amazing places in the world, the world is a very, very big place. There is so much more out there—so many more people to meet, so many more places to see, so much more life to live. Remember: four years is not a long time.

We, the people of UCSB and IV, are some of the luckiest in the world; we are able to dedicate a small portion of our lives to learning and bettering ourselves, preparing for the adventures that lie ahead. Four years alone may be nothing, but if you play your cards right, they can be more meaningful than anything you’ve done in the past. Be inquisitive. Study the things that interest you. Explore your passions. Try a new hobby, or make a new friend. Meet everyone you can, because you wouldn’t believe some of the characters who inhabit this place. But, above all, never, ever stop learning. This is a university, after all.

And when I say “learning,” I’m not talking about just academics. I’m talking about life lessons. If there’s one thing that IV has come to stand for over the past year, it’s unity and love for one another. A college town is an amazing place, full of young people on the cusp of beginning the most exciting chapters of their lives. Learn from them. Respect them. You wouldn’t believe how much your life changes once you open up your heart and mind to all of the different people, places, beliefs, and values that have shaped the community we are lucky enough to briefly call home.

Working for The Bottom Line over the past three years, I’ve been lucky to hear stories of students from all walks of life. I’ve worked with amazing, incredibly dedicated people; I’ve helped cover stories of victory and togetherness; and I’ve helped cover tragedy and sadness. But if there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that everyone has a unique, fascinating story to tell, and the more you open yourself up to listen, the more interesting your own story will become. Respecting and working with your fellow students—your fellow human beings—is one of the most important lessons you can learn here. It’s what makes the world a better place.

This may sound like a very rosy and overly sentimental analysis of what college really is, but there’s something to be said for thinking like this. After all, universities exist to better their students before they’re unleashed upon the real world, and that doesn’t only mean through education or academics. Sure, you can spend your entire college career playing Snappa on your front lawn and sleepwalking through your classes. This is one of the greatest places in the world to party the next couple years of your life away. But if that’s what you end up doing; you’ll be missing out on all that this town and university have to offer, and you’ll miss the chance to meet and learn from the other 20,000 students who are just like you.

Four years is not a long time. Make the most of it here. I’ll remember my time here forever, but it’s not because of the drunken nights and hungover mornings. It’s because of my classmates, my coworkers, my friends, and all of the amazing things we did and the bonds that we made.