Getting involved in outside projects and extracurricular activities is one of the best ways to make the most of your college years, a group of students discovered in the course of making a documentary film.

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A funny thing happened when four Pacific Lutheran University students began working on a documentary about college.

After spending nearly a year on the film, which included crossing the country to talk to students and national experts, the filmmakers concluded that the best way to make the most of college is to do extracurricular work on the things you’re most passionate about.

Like making a documentary.

The little ironies weren’t lost on student Natalie DeFord, who served as the film’s chief editor.

“In part of the film, we talk about doing a really big project in college, and how you can find meaning and purpose” by doing this work, she said. “The ironic part is, we’re making this movie about how you should be happy, but you shouldn’t be super stressed out…and we’re all really stressed out about the deadline.”

Still, the importance of following one’s passions in college came through loud and clear, said Evan Heringer, the chief videographer and editor. He had this advice for freshmen: “Just go out and try things– that’s what college is for. Figure out what you like to do. That’s going to help you figure out your interests.”

The film focuses on the pressure many high school students feel to go directly to a four-year college after graduation. After making the film, DeFord  wished she’d spent more time investigating other options besides going straight to college. “The biggest thing we discovered is that it can be beneficial to take time after high school, and not enroll immediately,” she said. The students also came to believe that trade schools, culinary schools, community colleges and apprenticeships may be better fits for some students. Alternatively, if money is tight, try Canada; their four-year colleges and universities are a relative bargain, DeFord said.

The documentary, “These Four Years,”  will be shown at the downtown Seattle Public Library’s Microsoft Auditorium at 3 p.m. on Nov. 14, and the showing is free and open to the public. A panel discussion will follow.

Heringer, a communications major, was so passionate about the making of the documentary that he’s now thinking of going to film school after he graduates from PLU this spring, either to do production or directing. DeFord, who did a summer internship at The Olympian — Olympia’s daily newspaper — plans to go into journalism. The film’s other contributors were Jasper Sortun and Grace Takehara.