Reflections from a College Senior by Cali Tonnesen

As I enter the last few weeks of college, I can’t help to reflect on my experiences. I’ll be completely honest and say that this was not the best four years of my life, I mean moments of it were great but if this is as good as it’s going to get, that’s a bit terrifying. Did I go about college the wrong way? Should I have done things differently? Sure, I have regrets, I probably should have come to college without a high school boyfriend because in hindsight that distanced myself from my friends. I should have spent more time out of my dorm room. I probably should have lived in my sorority house and became closer with my pledge class. I should have gone out more. I should’ve explored Des Moines every weekend. I should have just said “yes” more. But who really knows the right way to do college. Does anyone else feel like these four years are hyped up more than they should be?

Did I fail at college?

Drake University

Drake University is a small private liberal arts school in Des Moines, Iowa. I’m originally from Madison, Wisconsin and had never heard of Drake until I started my college search. At first, I looked at larger schools thinking that I’m more of a city girl, I like people and big atmospheres. But then I started looking at smaller more individualized schools because I got a bit overwhelmed at the big schools. I didn’t want to be just a number. Drake quickly became one of the top choices on the list. During my college visit to Drake, I believed I had found my place. Everyone was incredibly nice and welcoming, a Midwestern trait I suppose, and I felt comfortable here. At the time, I was insanely worried about the college process- what if I didn’t get in anywhere? It’s not like I had bad grades, but I just had never needed to sell myself before. Drake comforted my busy mind. An admissions guy I had met with while touring straight up told me that I was going to be admitted to Drake. Imagine hearing those words after all that built up anxiety of not fitting in anywhere. It was everything I wanted to hear.

I was wanted.

I immediately went to the Drake bookstore and bought a sweatshirt, t-shirt, and lanyard. That was it- college search over. I told my mom that on the drive back home that I was going to go to Drake, but she still made me write a pros and cons list. A few months later, I sent an email to that same admissions guy confirming that I would be attending Drake in the fall.

I was sold.

I was SO PUMPED for college. My graduation party was Drake’d out to the max. I found a bunch of bulldog stuffed animals and put them on the tables, hung blue and white streamers, set out blue and white M&Ms with blue and white confetti… I printed off a huge DRAKE UNIVERSITY sign and even wore a Drake blue dress. Needless to say, I could not wait for the next step into adulthood.

I was ready.

I couldn’t sleep the days before I moved into my new dorm. I didn’t know anyone going to Drake from my High School, so I was nervous about making a completely new group of friends. I hadn’t done that since I had moved to Wisconsin in the 2nd grade. But it turned out to be easy. I made great friends on day one and have stuck by them ever since.

I don’t regret that.

But after the initial excitement, life here at Drake seemed to die down a bit. Things got repetitive and I got bored. Wake up at 8am, eat lunch, go to class until 4pm, do homework until 11pm, go to sleep and repeat. To counter that, I studied abroad in Scotland and life got interesting again. I always knew I wanted to study abroad. I love traveling and can’t stay in one place for long. I kind of grew up that way, following my dad around every couple of years for new jobs. Because of my past, study abroad became the highlight of my college experience. I never really had a “home base” so staying in one place was never something that I wanted. When I came back, it went into the same repetitive pattern. No weekly trips to different countries, funky accents, or kilts. I entered into a depression and a longing that more than Des Moines, Iowa had to offer. I spent the next two years of my existence at Drake making new friends who loved adventure and went on weekly road trips with me. Ready to move on to my next adventure and I still had to complete two more years of college.  I even volunteered myself to be a part of Drake’s new campaign and take staged pictures in a last-ditch effort to gain more school pride. Hah, imagine if my face was on the front cover… no one would know the conflict behind that bright smile. But, it didn’t work, I didn’t even get the pictures back of me for “confidentiality purposes”. I was ready to leave.

Greek Life

Immediately when I stepped on Drake’s campus I knew I wanted to be in Greek Life. Heck even before I stepped on Drake’s campus I knew. I was literally the 4th person to sign up for recruitment. I kept picturing this amazing sisterhood full of secrets and excitement. And that is what it was for a bit. When you first join a sorority, you get obsessed over. On bid day, I took pictures with all of these older girls that I didn’t know… but they wanted a picture with me. They pampered us with attention, t-shirts with our Greek letters on them, and offered us an opportunity to expand our tiny circle of friends.

I felt wanted.

We got our Bigs who showered us with daily gifts and love letters. I felt a part of something, which eased the acclimation process. So, when the time Sophomore year approached and there was a batch of new girls to be obsessed with, I felt like an old pair of shoes. You see, sororities do this for recruitment purposes. It’s all about the selling. Selling our prestigious club membership so we can keep up our numbers. So, we put on our best outfits, clean our house to the point where it looks like no one lived there and practiced conversational skills. It felt fake. We wanted to make them feel like we are the best, that they belong here, and that we want them. Gotta keep up the numbers. But I couldn’t help feeling like I as a current member was no longer special.

I distanced myself.

As the years passed, I felt forgotten. Girls in my pledge class, some of my best friends, moved into our sorority house- I didn’t. Not because I didn’t want to, but because of the “selective system” that allowed only the girls with the best GPA and involved in the most clubs to live in. When I joined my sorority, I pictured living in this huge beautiful house with all of my sisters who are my best friends. And, that never happened. Because I never lived in the house, naturally there was a divide between the in-housers and outs-housers. It happened slowly. I gradually stopped getting invited to things because of the convenience factor of living in the same place. I guess I did the same thing. I hung out with my roommates more than I did with anyone else. I understood why it happened, but it was still hard to see it progress. I wanted to drop out of this clique but felt if I did, I would fail. Sorority life no longer felt like my identity as it had my freshman year.


A majority of my college relationships were long distance. I’ve been in long-distance relationships for three out of four of my years in college. They all started off when I was back in Wisconsin hanging out with some old high school friends. BAM- instant infatuation. It started with texting and FaceTiming constantly, then turned into every other weekend visits, and then once a month visits, to finally “I’ll just see you this summer”. The effort to communicate faded and our distance became reality. We gradually stopped having things to talk about besides the repetitive “well, work/school was ok” conversations that were no longer filled with deep thoughts and the occasional spurts of laughter. Was that normal?

I gradually lost interest.


I lost my fascination for the things that I used to be so passionate about. There’s nothing to point fingers at, I guess I just grew up and my interests changed. But it’s weird thinking about how drastically my life has changed in only 4 years. I was so ready for college and now I feel like I just can’t wait to get out. I was one of the first people to sign up for recruitment and now I’m okay with being an alumna. I was so invested in my relationships and now I’m looking forward to a having a career and being on my own. Will life always be this constant cycle of infatuation and disappointment? Do we keep hoping and searching for the next best thing and are never satisfied? Why does society hold such high expectations for these four years? Should we really put so much pressure on making college the “best time of our lives”?

Does it get better than this?