A new study from Duke University has found that college is the best four years of your life, and afterwards everything just goes to s**t.
Duke’s research programs, famed for their groundbreaking studies that being crossfaded can impair learning and that black students try less than white students, have now begun expanding their focus beyond the college years in order to delve into research of the full lifespan. Using a complex algorithm that combines life satisfaction measures such as hours per day spent smiling artificially, time weekly spent in libraries, alcohol consumption and other measures described in the methods as “important number-y stuff,” Duke’s top sociological researchers found that college students are, on average, at least 69 percent happier than all other age groups.
“At first I was shocked when I heard our outcome,” commented Duke researcher Dr. Smitty Werbenjagermanjensen. “But then I started to think back on college. Like, do you remember when it was allowed—hell, ENCOURAGED—to drink five nights a week, and no one was all concerned for your safety or mental health or that s**t? College was AWESOME! I can almost taste the stale beer and diverse on-campus dining options …” During this point in the interview, Dr. Werbenjagermanjensen starred off into space, muttering something about the good ole days, making further questioning impossible.
Within college student populations, freshmen and seniors were found to have the highest overall happiness scores. Sophomores fell behind due to students’ realization that schools typically do not care about non-first year students, causing a reaction similar to that of a preschool child whose parents have a new baby. This response has been deemed the “sophomore slump,” largely to distinguish it from pouting.
Junior year happiness was the lowest of the college years, with multiple factors leading to disillusionment, such as the division between abroad and non-abroad students, a stagnant still-under-21 social scene and the realization that “hookup culture” really means “three years of bad sex.” In qualitative interviews, researchers commented that juniors were a “bore”, “unbearable to talk to” and “dear Jesus talk about over-sharing seriously I do not care this much about your problems.” Tapes of the interviews were found to consist mostly of the phrase “campus just isn’t ours anymore,” long-winded complaint followed by immediate redaction and declaration that everything is “totally fine” and muffled tears just loud enough to garner pity.
Within the senior class, happiness was most correlated with feelings of extreme pressure to get the most out a final year. “This is the last year of the best years of my life,” said senior Lorenzo von Matterhorn, who at the time of the interview, was at Devine’s while simultaneously signing up for a cooking class and publishing semi-true skills on Linked In. “I mean, I’m currently still jobless and have no life plan, but I’m going to make sure I go out at least four nights a week so I don’t miss anything. But it’s got to be amazing. I mean it’s going to be amazing. Yeah.”
Freshmen, who rated the highest life satisfaction of all, were found to be happy and enthusiastic about almost everything. In interviews, every other word was “awesome” and everything in their life was reportedly going “great!” Although interviewers observed that their smiles were closer to grimaces at this point from holding them for so long and that they seemed to be particularly twitchy, this is attributable to a supreme level of happiness the human body cannot fully tolerate.
The study is not without its critics. Dr. Carlos Danger, a middle-aged chemistry professor at Duke, claims life only gets better after college. “I have a stable job, a loving wife and two great kids. I don’t really see what all the college hype is about,” Dr. Danger reported, in a saddening state of denial about his miserable existence.
However, recent Duke graduate Gracie Loufreebush was unsurprised by the results. “Oh, college? Best four years of your life. No question.” While trying to describe why college had been such a great time, Loufreebush indicated that she didn’t really remember why it was so great, but it was, and that the whole experience had been a “blur.” “I was in the library a lot. And out a lot. I guess I drank a lot too …” When asked whether she kept in touch with any of her friends from college, Loufreebush stated, “Oh, hell no. I hate those people.”
Okay kitties, satire out. College is frequently declared the unparalleled “best” time of our lives. What no one tells us is that at college, things will not be perfect, and in fact, they can be pretty hard. But the fact of the matter is that everyone has struggled and does struggle. So Dukies—particularly freshmen—remember this: College can be amazing, but that doesn’t mean you have to be happy all the time. Let yourself be unhappy sometimes, and rely on others in those instances, because they’ve been there too. Perhaps if we’re honest with ourselves and others, we can make this the best time of our lives after all.
Lillie Reed is a Trinity senior. Her column is part of the weekly Socialites feature and runs every other Wednesday. Send Lillie a message on Twitter @LillieReed.