I know that a lot of people are debating about whether college is the right move for people. While it definitely isn’t for everyone, here are the reasons I’m glad I went to a university.
Like I said before, I do believe that college genuinely isn’t for everyone. Earning a degree at a college or university can be a very dehumanizing experience, not least because university culture can put pressure on students to have a very conventional career path. It doesn’t always help you get a job in the current economy. It’s also an environment where a lot of stereotypes are put on you because you study one thing over another. Plus the fact that we’re pretty much spoon-fed ideas about how an American college experience “should” be…
So yes, I admit it. College can really suck sometimes. But for me and my life, it was exactly what I needed. And here’s why:
1. I met a lot more people who were like me.
I was a definite weirdo in my school — always reading, listening to Broadway songs, hardly ever dressing as trendy as the rich girls. In an attempt to fit in, I hid my inner dorkiness. But then I got to college, and found a LOT of people who were like me. They read all the time, played Apples to Apples in peoples’ basements instead of going out drinking, and watched shows like Doctor Who and Frasier. With just the sheer amount of people in my university, I was much more able to find people who were more similar to me. In terms of growing into an adult, it was a very good thing to have happen!
2. I met a lot of people who weren’t like me.
Just as beneficial as it was to find a clan I could belong to, it was just as beneficial for me to interact with people who were very different from myself. I met people who had lived in other countries, had been born in other countries, and had way different upbringings than I could ever imagine. It was so great to step out of my comfort zone and meet people who were far more different than me. We woud end up learning a lot from one another. Without going to college (and without meeting these new people!) I would no doubt be a much less well-rounded person.
3. It forced me to see what I really wanted to do.
When you’re stuck in big classes about subjects you don’t care about, it forces your brain to cope in various ways. I’m not talking about Facebooking during class or texting your friends between classes — I mean when you’re procrastinating the work from one class by doing the work for a completely different class. What’s that second class? Maybe it’s what you’re truly what you’re meant to be doing.
I thought for sure when I first entered college that I wanted to be a pediatrician. But that first General Chemistry class convinced me that I wasn’t — I couldn’t even stand to come to class. I’d check the news, e-mail my grandparents, anything to take my mind off what I was supposed to be learning. It’s like how Franz Kafka worked in the insurance industry for years, but went home every day to write books that are now literary classics. In a way, I’m glad I had to take classes I despised, because it forced my brain to throw tantrums and make me right. These “bad classes” helped me gain conviction.
Which is why I would love to tell Freshman-Age Brit: When you’re blogging and mixing playlists in the wee hours of the night before a midterm, you obviously don’t want to be in that class. Stop kidding yourself.
4. It forced me to learn things (sometimes against my will!)
Some classes in college are difficult, or at least very trying. Some classes consume all your time just because you cannot make yourself understand what they’re trying to tell you! You almost have to pound it into your head with a hammer.
But you have to learn how to pound things into your head in order to succeed in the real world. What if you have to learn something for your job, and you’re absolutely unsure of how to do that? You ask around the office. You find resources elsewhere. You sit and ponder it for a while — whatever works for you! And college, with all its required classes, forces you to learn whatever you need in a hurry. That’s how you pass classes (or even better, succeed in them!). So unless you’re a very diligent and lucky person, college is where a lot of people learn how to teach themselves things in this manner.
5. I learned how to take what I wanted, education-wise.
I’ll be perfectly frank: Not all the classes I took in my college were ultimately useful. But I learned useful skills from them, or else I left. Even the weird Animal Behavior class in sophomore year had something to teach me. And if I couldn’t drop a class I didn’t want to be in, I kept trying to learn things. I reformatted class projects so theat they could be about subjects that interested me. I listened to a lot of TED talks, in addition to other podcasts. I read the news. I tried to surround myself with people who were curious about everything. More than showing me the value of a degree, college reminded me of how much I loved learning. If I hadn’t gone to college, that love would have been forgotten, and maybe would have wilted over time.
So while my college experience definitely wasn’t perfect, I definitely wouldn’t be who I am today withut it. And I like who I am right now, and I’m confident about where I’m going. Isn’t that the point of going to college anyway?