You Have Four Years To Be Irresponsible Here. Relax

Tom Petty? Apocryphal?

college11Dear Quote Investigator: There is a piece of controversial advice aimed at college students that I have long suspected was created by an undergraduate to sabotage his fellow students. It contains the suggestion:

You have four years to be irresponsible here, relax. Work is for people with jobs.

Usually the words are attributed to the famous rocker Tom Petty, but I do not think he attended college. Word you please explore this topic?

Quote Investigator: QI has found no substantive evidence that Tom Petty wrote or said this advice. Perhaps at some point Petty or his representative will make a statement claiming or disclaiming the quotation. For now, this short article presents a snapshot of current research.

The earliest evidence located by QI appeared in a student-run newspaper called “The Observer” serving the University of Notre Dame and Saint Mary’s College in Notre Dame, Indiana. In October 2003 student Emily Howald published an essay titled “Yeah, college!”, and she presented the quotation as an “excellent piece of advice”, but she did not provide an attribution: 1

If your faith is depleting or you’ve whiffed at having fun, look, as I do, to this excellent piece of advice. Think of it as the voice of reason, the voice of college.

I’ve learned one thing and that’s to quit worrying about stupid things. You have four years to be irresponsible here. Relax; work is for people with jobs. You’ll never remember class time but you’ll remember the time you wasted hanging out with your friends. So stay out late. Go out on a Tuesday night with your friends when you have a paper due on Wednesday. Spend money you don’t have. Drink until sunrise. The work never ends but college does.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading You Have Four Years To Be Irresponsible Here. Relax


  1. Website: The Observer, Article title: Yeah, college!, Article author: Emily Howald, Date on website: October 20, 2003, Website description: “The Observer is the student-run, daily print and online newspaper serving Notre Dame and Saint Mary’s”. (Accessed archive section of on June 26, 2011 and on November 20, 2016) link