First-Year Column: Is College Just an Extended Sleepover?

Harvey Mudd College is a bit of a dangerous place. No, not because of the fires, or the constant stress as professor after professor loads us down with homework. Not even because we have a penchant for games that involve running around and stabbing each other with duct tape wands or shooting each other with Nerf guns—no, Harvey Mudd is a dangerous place for me because I enjoy spending time with the people here a bit too much.

The thing about college that makes it intrinsically different than high school, for me, is that at the end of the day there is no ‘going home.’ The people I go to class with are also those with whom I eat, hang out, and live. Luckily, I adore them all. If I didn’t, college might feel claustrophobic. As it is, college is more like a never-ending sleepover. The parallels are actually a bit terrifying in number: I can eat pizza for dinner every night; my dorm plays board game after board game. We watch YouTube videos and laugh hysterically as it gets later and later. We have giant cuddle puddles and spontaneous dance parties. In so many ways, college is like all the dreams of sleepovers I had when I was younger, without that one little factor—sleep.

Then again, when have sleepovers ever really included sleep? My childhood self was always under the impression that it was called a sleepover because you only slept once it was over. Waiting to sleep for four years, though, seems like a remarkably bad idea. Caffeine, while a short-term solution, can only tide you over until you manage to actually get sleep. Naps, while they make me feel instantaneously happy and refreshed, throw off my entire sleep schedule. If I make the parallels between college and sleepovers too strong in my own head, I’ll forget that I also need to function as a human being.

While I had never assumed that, as a lifelong introvert, I would find such joy in the social aspect of college, I did anticipate the workload. Learning to balance schoolwork and sleep while building friendships has been an interesting struggle. One great solution I’ve found is to have homework parties. (To be fair, when I host them, I usually have to kick people out eventually.) While complaining about homework can be a bonding experience, I’ve also enjoyed how my time at Mudd has allowed me to make homework itself a bonding experience. I’ve always been that nerd-child who genuinely finds the material in her classes fascinating, and now I can have conversations with my classmates about it. Homework parties aren’t just a way to be productive, they’re also a way to genuinely get to know each other.

In many ways college really is a never-ending sleepover, but it’s also important to remember the ways in which it is not. College provides a lot of freedoms, to be sure, but freedom does in fact come with responsibilities. Yes, I can go eat pizza every day for dinner, but that’s not the healthiest of choices. College isn’t just a chance for to make friendships that I hope will last a lifetime; it’s also a chance for me to figure out how to live on my own. While communal living is an absolutely fantastic way to meet people, it’s also important to remember that, besides roommates, we have different rooms for a reason—so we can have a quiet place to do homework, to sleep, and to de-stress.

Last night my friend and I stayed up stargazing. We talked about our lives until the wee hours of the morning, discussing who we were and where we came from. The only actual difference between last night and the sleepovers from high school was that at 2:30 a.m., she went back to her room to sleep instead of just falling asleep in mine. The point of sleepovers was never really to braid hair, after all, but rather to make connections. And in the end, isn’t that what the social part of college is about as well?

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