It’s only fair to begin this piece by revealing that I’m a romantic. I cry at sappy movies and collect fairytales and happy endings like some people collect stamps. However, there’s an important difference between fantasy and reality, and I think that difference becomes paramount when discussing whether long distance relationships are a good or bad idea in college.
Most people find themselves faced with the prospect of a long distance relationship during their freshman year of college because they are still attached to their high school sweethearts and are apprehensive about what to expect once they leave home. A high school boyfriend or girlfriend can easily become a security blanket, anchoring you to the happiness and ease of senior year and keeping you from feeling fully alone in college. But here’s the honest truth: by committing yourself to someone else, especially someone far away, you are only hurting yourself.
As cliché as it sounds, I really do believe that the four years you spend in college are the years that form you into the person you will be for the rest of your life. The things you experience and the people you meet will shape your values and your outlook on the world, but you can't meet as many people or have as many experiences when your time is devoted to someone far away.
In addition, being part of a couple makes it harder to be independent in college. Your freedom becomes limited by the obligations of your relationship. Why cheat yourself out of such an influential time by hanging on to a piece of your past?
You may wonder if a balance can be achieved. Is it possible to have a successful long distance relationship and still gain all college has to offer? My own experience has taught me no. Distance means that you and your significant other are ultimately living different lives, and while it at first may seem feasible to share everything, soon it begins to feel like you have to choose between being present at school or being present in your relationship.
When your time is spent skyping on a computer or taking weekends off to visit someone far away, you don't even know what memories you miss making. Ultimately, one of you will stop trying to include the other in the part of life that exists without them. You don’t want to look back on your freshman year and wish that you hadn’t wasted your time on something that left you empty-handed.
Of course there are exceptions to the usual circumstances. Maybe your long distance love really is The One. However, the key is not to assume you are the exception, but to assume you are the rule. If you are the exception and your relationship is meant to be, I believe the universe will make it happen. However, if you are the rule (and you probably are), you just saved yourself a lot of effort, sacrifice, and heartbreak.
Ultimately what I have learned by experiencing a long distance relationship myself is that college is a time to be selfish. You should work as hard as you can and have as much fun as possible and learn everything there is to know because you wont ever get a do-over. Long distance relationships can work, but they require selflessness and sacrifice. Only undertake them if you understand what’s at stake should you fail.