After six years, three different institutions of higher learning, and many hours of procrastinating, I am finally done with college. It took a long time, cost a lot of money, and added a lot of stress, but I think it was all worth it. I have a degree that legitimizes my aptitude. I have experiences that go deeper than a piece of paper.
Many people, especially conservatives, fear sending their kids to college. Some argue that colleges are hostile to conservative ideas and do not allow viewpoints that run counter to the progressive narrative. That is true to an extent. There is an element of groupthink on campuses, with expectations that you perceive the world to be exactly as they tell you it is. Others argue that it’s a waste of money and an excuse for kids to party while running up a tab. That’s possible. Many students go to school for the wrong reasons and student debt is a serious issue. However, saying it’s a waste is an oversimplification. Having a degree gives you an immediate advantage over someone without a degree. As for avoiding the progressive groupthink, saying that you shouldn’t get an education because some dude in a tweed jacket stands against everything you believe in isn’t hurting them, it’s hurting you. You’re effectively surrendering your perspective and voice to people who will never learn your name as they gather dust on tenure. To deny yourself this experience only costs you, not them.
If you’re in college, then you know there are three common questions that family and friends will ask you. The first of which asks: What are you going to do with that degree? For some of us, including myself, we weren’t exactly sure what we were going to do with it. I’m still not entirely sure what to do with a degree in Political Science. My hope is that the great mystery of life answers that in due time even if it doesn’t come as a cut-and-dry answer.
The second most common question comes when you graduate: Now what? That’s a bit easier to answer. I know my immediate plans, but let’s not get carried away predicting the future. Move home, save money, then go from there. It’s a start and isn’t as exciting as one would hope, but it answers the question.
The third most common question you are asked is: Well, did you learn anything? I would like to think I have. Here are the four lessons that I learned in college.
No One Will Care If You Don’t Care
This advice can be given to any freshman starting school or someone trying to start a business. In a classroom, most professors are willing to go the extra mile if they see that you are willing. Generally speaking, they love their subjects in ways we can’t even comprehend. If you show that interest, they will light up. On the opposite side, if no one puts in any effort then their passion in the classroom dwindles.
The same can be said for the real world. Do you care about clean energy? Voting rights? Civil liberties? Animal cruelty? It’s good to care about things greater than yourself. But if you don’t show that you care then no one else will notice how important it is to you and in turn for the rest of us.
The way you care for things shows that it needs to be cared for. Care for it in a way that is appealing to others. Take, for example, the environment. No one likes air pollution or clubbing baby seals. We like being able to breath and look at cute animals on Instagram. And yet, we all know someone that doesn’t shut up about their hybrid or their vegan diet. We find this smugness to be unbearable and as a result we end up resenting what they’re smug about. Not that any person with a heart would resent a baby seal, but they certainly won’t put in any effort to help your cause if you’re annoying. Most causes are based in some truth. However, most causes are associated with the loudest, most obnoxious members of the group. The most blowhardy among us drives others away from addressing the problem. Don’t be a blowhard.
If you’ve sat in a class and one student seemed to needle the professor, attempting to start an argument, then learn not to do this. Yes, that student “cares” but only for selfish reasons. Care for honest reasons in a dignified manner and you will draw others to you, your cause, and your side.
Timeliness Is Next To Godliness
Not literally. God probably doesn’t operate on the Gregorian Calendar, but being reasonable He probably wouldn’t show up ten minutes late to everything. Classes start when they say they will start, assignments are due when they say they are due, and unless you get prior permission to be late that’s when everyone expects you to be there.
I had a class with about seventy-five students. Every day this one student was late. My professor would comment, to the entire class, how he expected that student to be late. He said it with disgust and frustration. This was a professor that had been teaching there for two decades and had thousands of students over the course of his career. I doubt he remembers anyone from that class, except that one student. He knew that student by name because he was late every single day. That’s a horrible way to be remembered.
Being late is annoying. When you’re late, you’re breaking the promise of being somewhere at a certain time. I’ve had group projects where members say they’ll do something or be somewhere by a certain time and then completely blow me off. You are not the only one being hurt when you’re late. Those group members costed the other members that were actually trying. We all had other obligations, other places to be, other assignments to complete. By showing up late or by being a no-show, you are costing everyone. That late student costed the class by disrupting the lesson. When you work in a job, you’re costing people money by being late. Don’t be late.
Work Is A Good Thing
It keeps you motivated and balanced. I found that my best grades came when I was at my busiest. Taking fifteen hours of upper division courses while working three jobs was insanely stressful. Yet when the end of the semester came I found my grades were at their best. I also developed better time management skills, sleeping habits, and generally enjoyed my free time more. I didn’t put off assignments until the last minute. As someone who has had bouts of insomnia, I was physically exhausted and unable to stay up late when I was busy. When I had a Saturday off, instead of playing video games all day or wasting time, I went outside for a walk or went swimming. My time became more valuable and I treated it as such.
Work keeps your mind in a better state. It’s hard to wallow in depression when you have work to do. Sure, we all have bad days, but it’s a lot easier to get caught in self pity and sadness when you have nowhere to be. You won’t be as worried about an unknown future when your future is partially laid out for you.
People Love You
People really love you. It’s easy to dismiss the sacrifices your family has made to send you to college. They’re supposed to send you to college. It’s their job. Maybe, but not everyone does their job. There are plenty of intelligent people that are more than capable of succeeding in college that have a family that couldn’t care less about them. Some of these people find scholarships and take out loans to make up for the cost. Then, those people that are supposed to be loving and supporting simply end up resenting them for their success. Be grateful for their sacrifice and love, even if it doesn’t come out as nicely as you’d like.
This is one of the most important lessons I learned in college. Whenever I am feeling sorry for myself I can remember that my family drove 2,500 miles across the country to watch me graduate and help me move. I can remember the checks that they wrote. I can remember the cards that friends sent me. I can remember the times I felt alone in the struggle of life and someone called me at just the right time.
College can help you develop relationships. You’ll make friends and lovers of the people you meet. But even more importantly, you’ll appreciate the people that got you there. It’s hard to have that appreciation of them when you’re young, but when there’s distance between you and perspective gained, you’ll love them more for it.
You have to decide whether or not college is worth it, but for me it was. These four things developed me in ways that I’m not sure would have come as quickly, or at all, had I not gone. Learning to care, to value your time, to work, and to appreciate life are incredibly valuable skills that one should develop. That’s what I learned from college.