The Best of the Best of 2020: The Reasons the Year Didn’t Totally Suck for College Students

2020 was not good, not good at all. But the show must go on: so here’s few reasons why the year didn’t outright suck for college students.

A 2020 graduate in a cap and gown with a mask hoards toilet paper in her hands.

2020 was not a good year. For many reasons I’ve touched on, and a lot of others have touched on as well. We’ve had death, protests, a chaotic presidential election (plus some interesting, to say the least, election aftermath), and more besides. But, if you’re a college student in the U.S. there are still some reasons to celebrate, some you’d expect and some that are unexpected.

So let’s raise a glass and take a well-earned gulp of the finest (or not so finest) hooch, kombucha, soda, iced tea, coffee, protein shake, wellness shot, whatever floats your drinking boat, to 2020 and all the moderately good stuff that sort of still happened. Then raise your glass again and take another gulp, this time to 2021, in a warm-up celebration for how much better than 2020 it’s going to be. Below are some of those moderate reasons why 2020 didn’t entirely suck for college students.

A black and white film image of a couple watching a drive-in movie.

Drive-In Movies Are Back

Yeah, Hollywood really took a bath this year; but that doesn’t mean good movies didn’t come out. There was Nomadland, First Cow, Lovers Rock, Da Five Bloods, Mank, Dick Johnson Is Dead, and a host of others besides. And don’t forget that in February of 2020 (so long ago!) the Academy of Motion Pictures and Science gave Bong-Joon Ho’s Parasite both the Best International Feature Film and Best Picture oscar (plus Best Screenplay & Best Director!), to which we can only applaud.

And the extra perk for all those retro-loving college folks: drive-in movies came back. For anyone who wished they could be an extra in a scene from Once Upon a Time in Hollywood this was a dream come true; perhaps, if we’re lucky, exhibitors will decide to keep the drive-ins this time around and we’ll get to enjoy them for years to come.

A family performs a dance on TikTok

We Danced, Laughed, & Watched the Rise of TikTok

Sure, it was almost banned in a weird politics-culture mash-up only 2020 could have delivered. But now we love TikTok more than ever; it’s truly a borderless community, with vids for everyone from recipe lovers to dancers to craft-makers.

TikTok has become something of a cultural equalizer, and a lot of the credit goes to those high schoolers and college students who made it their mission to craft TikTok into the kind of social media that hasn’t quite existed before.

A record player spins some vinyl jams.

Taylor Swift Released Not Just One But Two Surprise Albums

2020 has been tough in terms of live concerts. There have been a few drive-in concerts, but it hasn’t seen the resurgence that drive-in movies have. And yet, Taylor Swift found time to surprise us all with not one, but two stellar albums, Folklore and Evermore. The albums were folksy, but not cloying; they were soothing and comfortable, like putting on a sweater from childhood that somehow still fits perfectly. All in all, not a bad thing.

(Bonus: Harry Styles became the first solo male on a Vogue cover, and Timothée Chalamet then nailed his Harry Styles impression on SNL.)

A boyfriend and girlfriend watch TV on the couch comfortably.

You Finally Got Through Your Watchlist (And A Few More Things Besides!)

2020 was a great year for anyone with a long Netflix queue and not enough hours in the day. College students had plenty of time, for the most part, to finally dig into those long-awaited titles.

All in all, we probably spent too much time sitting down in front of screens of various kinds this year; but the effect has also made us extremely TV-literate, for better or worse. We watched some fantastic content, some fine content, and some truly awful content (I’m looking at you Floor is Lava).

A girl pats her boyfriend's back as he weeps after watching Normal People

We Were Introduced to Daisy Edgar-Jones and Paul Mescal (& Connell’s Chain) in Normal People

Ahhh yes. I couldn’t resist putting this one in a separate column from the previous TV-centric one. Because there was just something about Hulu’s Normal People (based on the book by Sally Rooney) and its two breakout stars Paul Mescal and Daisy Edgar-Jones that just made perfect sense in 2020. And the fact is, Normal People seemed to resonate with college students (and those of a similar age) far deeper.

The show follows two Irish kids from their rural high school days through to the end of college with aplomb, somberness, laughs, tears, and a lot of (let’s call it) sexual energy. This was not a show to watch with your parents; those in college gathered around their brilliantly glowing laptop screens, like urchins to a fire in a Dickens’ novel, and gazed longingly at Edgar-Jones and Mescal as they passed through their college life together, and apart.

A man leaps from 2020 to 2021 on a mountainside

Wrappin’ It Up

If there were an awards ceremony for Best Years Ever, held, I imagine, in a grand hall somewhere off any human map, 2020 would surely not win it. 2020 would not even come close. Of course, I didn’t live through Pompeii so it’s hard to know who had it worse, but, without a doubt, 2020 hasn’t been a good year.

And yet, there were still some good moments, some fun to be had. I listed some of those bright spots above, but I undoubtedly missed some too. I think everyone has had their personal downs and struggles this year, aside from or as part of the major ones; but alongside the downs, everyone also had their own personal ups, the good things that happened that were unexpected, or just a nice change of pace. Let’s be grateful for the good, and do our best not to replicate the bad. Happy holidays, everyone, and Happy New Year; let’s do our utmost to make 2021 a year to remember, but for all the right reasons.

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