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Feeling nostalgic for college

Alice,

I have graduated from college with an associate's degree in 2002. I loved college a lot, especially the whole social scene. It was a great time to really learn more about yourself and others and to finally have freedom. Now I sort of feel nostalgic about my days at college, and sometimes wish I could go back to that time which I know is quite impossible. My question is this normal for people and why would people feel that way.

Dear Reader,

Ah, the college life. It makes sense that you would look back on it fondly, and it’s natural to feel nostalgic about significant parts of your past. Think of all the energy people spend planning and attending get-togethers like high school and college reunions. Those are notable times in many people’s lives for the very reasons you mention, so you're certainly not alone with these feelings. While completely recreating your college experience (or going back in time) isn’t possible, you may be able to build some of the things you liked about college into your present life.

You may have attended college between the ages of 18 and 22 if you started right out of high school. This time period is one of major growth, marked by increased independence and self-reliance, a firmer sense of identity, and the development of more serious relationships, among many other experiences. You specifically point out the love you had for the social scene at college, and for good reason. College is a unique opportunity to enter into a ready-made community of people with many common goals. The good news is there ways you can recreate the aspects of this set-up for your life post-college; it just takes a little creative thinking. Here are some ideas you may consider:

  • If you miss the intellectual stimulation, try taking a class or joining a book group.
  • To replicate aspects of the social scene, consider joining a sports team, theatre troupe, or some other group with a high level of camaraderie.
  • If you miss the energy of the college environment, check out your alma mater’s alumni groups or associations for opportunities to become involved on campus.
  • You mentioned that you learned more about yourself during college. One way to continue this journey is by challenging yourself. Set goals, try something new, travel, but above all, get out of your comfort zone.

Additionally, if your nostalgia has been partly brought on due to missing your friends, there are plenty of ways to stay in touch! You could schedule video chat dinner parties with your friends, have an online movie night, or even just send them some classic snail mail. You could also make plans to visit your friends at college reunions or even at events on campus, such as homecoming or alumni weekend. While leaving your friends is certainly one of the more difficult parts of leaving college, there are always opportunities and ways to maintain the connection.

Overall, it's certainly normal for people to get all nostalgic about their days in college, as it's a very notable time in the lives of many people. While "turning the clock backwards" isn't possible, there are plenty of ways to stay in touch with your college pals, as well as maintain the sense of freedom and curiosity you had at school.

May you continue looking back fondly at your past, have high hopes for the future, and keep your feet firmly planted in the present!

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Last updated Feb 18, 2022
Originally published Jun 23, 2006