“Let’s all take a camping trip together, that would be so much fun!” The idealistic picture of the whole gang circled around a roaring campfire, roasting marshmallows and nursing hot toddys looked like the perfect fall activity for a weekend. “Yeah that sounds great. We can probably go next June when school gets out,” my friend Alex responded. I balked. We had to wait a whole year just to find time to go camping?
Of course, Alex was right. Between the weekly mountain of schoolwork, internships, work study, clubs and volunteering, I have not had one free weekend all semester. I work several hours a week just to be able to afford school. It is hard enough to corral all my friends together for a night out, much less an overnight camping trip.
College students today are busier and more stressed out than ever. Studies by UCLA and the University of Missouri show that we have greater financial concern and are unable to spend as much time with friends as other generation of students before us. It is yet another symptom of the astronomical cost of college — we have to work longer and harder to make our degrees worth the $250,000 investment, and for a lot of us, that means sacrificing time building a support network.
My aunt met her closest friends from college in her dorm freshman year, and every summer they still get together and rent out a beach house for a week. I hope that I will still be doing that 25 years after I graduate, but I am not sure. I rarely get to see people I consider some of my closest friends at Fordham, simply because I do not have time. I don’t know if it will be possible to maintain those relationships once we’re out of school and our lives move in different directions.
When we have to fight to make college worth the cost by filling our schedules to the breaking point, we are subtly, unintentionally teaching ourselves to devalue friendship and prioritize work and financial concerns over our personal relationships. I fall into the same trap — after graduation, I will have bills and student loans to pay on a (most likely) inadequate salary, so I will let my friendships slide in order to work and save money. But I am beginning to fear that I have made a mistake by prioritizing one over the other.
I have three semesters left at Fordham and, in maximizing that time, I am planning to make my friendships a much higher priority. There is not much time before we go off in separate directions, living in different cities and leading different lives, and if our friendships are not strong enough before graduation, they will not last. If we want to hold on to these people and memories, we must make our friendships as important as all of our other responsibilities.