Let’s cut right into it...college is hard. Not necessarily in immediate ways but hard as in the constant demands it places on you and the emotional toll it tends to take on you. College can leave one wondering daily if this is the right investment to make; will the return be worth all these sleepless nights, rigorous course loads, worry, debt and personal sacrifices?
As a rising junior at a private liberal arts college, these thoughts screen through my mind daily. The closer I get to my fourth year the farther away it seems to be. College is a constant juggle of demands between academia, extra-curricular involvement, friends, family and self (and even being a Resident Advisor if you are like me). This place is more than an institution...college is a lifestyle. Nonetheless, though college deals me my fair share of strenuous work, I still wholeheartedly believe this is the place I should be. College serves as a place of stability while you--still developing and being very much impressionable to the world around you--try to figure this thing called life out.
College, if very inclusive, is the single place where you will get diversity in one setting and get to learn from it. Not just diversity in racial relations but also in economic status, personality, age, religions, sexual orientation, and mindsets. I think once you are out in the real world, and you are in diverse settings, you are expected to already know how to adjust to it accordingly, but college affords you the chance to actually learn how to adapt. You learn that your limited notions of the world have kept you grounded in prejudices believing that all blacks are ghetto, all gays are just confused, poor people are lazy, all quiet people are socially awkward, and/or all white people like rock and roll. The moments when your biases are exposed to be wrong makes for a great experience and these life experiences work together like a well-oiled machine to advance you into higher thinking. These very experiences also become the backdrop to help you thrive in other areas of your life.
The college experience challenges every value, belief and perception you hold in your personal vault. It evokes critical thought and open-mindedness that puts you on a path to living a better life. It takes you from the shadows of opinions and puts you on a quest to find new knowledge in curiosity for truth.
College also gives you a chance to employ the life lessons you have learned. It shows you that what you go through in your own individual life is very synonymous to the bigger world at large. In college while dealing with some personal situations you may come to think of yourself as a recluse and that no one would be so unlucky to share your same frustrations and fears. Fortunately, college becomes the very stage where you can see that whatever you suffer through is just a microcosm of bigger issues shared around campus if not around the world. It's not only you who worries about securing a rewarding livelihood; nor are you alone when you want to major in one thing, but you have outside pressures to major in something you're less passionate about. And if you're anything like me it is not only you who receives a culture shock when traveling back and forth between home and school. This is the place where you can learn and apply those lessons soon after.
For a long time throughout history college was considered an elite experience only affordable to the highest class in society. This alone should underscore the tremendous gain college is. You learn how to secure the means to achieve human good, and you are exposed to the different standards of greatness across many human endeavors. I know I was always excited to be learning about liberal arts in depth. Getting a complete education in the scopes of fine arts, social sciences, humanities, mathematics and science allowed me to feel myself growing. For example, I now held a tolerance to watch plays I usually wouldn't have been interested in, read fantasy literature that I previously brushed off not knowing it offered important themes that correlate to valuable life lessons, and I even felt like I started to understand my place in the world and could form sound ideas and express them to others in rich detail. It became a priority for me to routinely absorb new forms of art, culture and history whether this meant seeing a play on Broadway, going to the Metropolitan Art Museum or watching educational documentaries on Netflix. All of these gains combined gave me confidence about moving through this big scary world. I was thrilled that I could actually understand the social movements happening around me, and I could comprehend politics in ways I never thought about before. My thought process was now bigger than myself and the problems in America; I developed a genuine care for issues in different cultures. I was now concerned with problems central to the lives of women in developing countries around the world. Comparatively, I became aware of international relations, had a new focus looking at education systems across the globe and was compelled by issues of extreme poverty. I had a new capacity to learn about the world and not just my place in it. As you could imagine, my appetite to travel also grew intense. I realized how traveling had the power to expand my view of reality. Also, I connected with people from the opposite side of the spectrum on the back of intellectual conversations. These conversations weren't just an exchange of words but also an exchange of ideas with a chance to break down misconceptions often rooted in biases.
Further, college completely made me self-conscious...in a good way. I became awakened. I was much more aware of the food I ate and if it contained gluten, too many preservatives, too much sugar, sodium or genetically modified organisms. In my old eating habits, I craved whatever was good to my taste buds. Honestly, even if I did know about eating healthy then as I do now, my family didn’t have the money or time to afford it. I was literally raised a McDonalds baby because it was cheap and convenient being that it was a 3-minute drive from my house. A high-caloric, sodium-packed, and sugar-powered $4 meal including tax was just easier for my dad. Coming to college gave me a better selection of food to choose from in the cafe; here I had a choice of infused water, different vegetables, salads, high-protein meats, and soft desserts. I learned to have a healthy balance in my diet which is something I didn’t practice before college. It was my roommate, Gabrielle, that introduced me to the benefits of an avocado and drinking plenty of water. One night we were doing an avocado face mask, and she took the remains and started using it as a chip dip. I slightly judged her at first, but now I have an appreciation for avocados...so, a special thanks to my sistergirl for that. (:
Next, I learned about the power of a dollar and with that knowledge I started spending more wisely. America has one of the largest consumer markets in the entire world--here in America we thoughtlessly dish out our dollars in exchange for what we want (mostly not even for what we need) thus investing power into the hands of corporations. I now know the staples of any corporation are their consumers; if you want to support a business you invest your money...if you don't support a company take away your dollar. In the face of that new knowledge, I better control my dollar and make investments where I will see the greatest return.
While I am not in love with the minute by minute details of college--being that the demands of 18 credit hour semesters can indeed drive you insane--I do love how well rounded I will be if I give each class the attention its due and persevere through each hardship college hands me. Once it’s time for me to turn that tassel from right to left, I will be a lethal stiletto-wearing woman headed out in the big world, full of ambition and rich in knowledge. When I head out into the world, I'll be that less clueless. Lastly, college carries a social power that translates into social privilege. When it is found out that you are a college graduate, it elicits respect from others and implies you have a general knowledge of the world. Now, for the naysayers who will argue that some of the most successful people in the world didn’t go to college, in response I will contend that they never stopped educating themselves either.
Steve Jobs indeed did drop out of college but did you know he also kept going to classes for 18 months although he wasn’t enrolled? He even credited a calligraphy course at Reed College for giving him the foundational knowledge needed to develop his ideas surrounding technology. Many successful people who didn’t go the college route are often rewarded honorary doctorates. College is a good look! No matter if it's a public, private or community institution. If you attend a community college don’t exclude yourself from thinking your college experience doesn’t have any utility....I believe you too are still receiving an experience definitely worth having! So, even when you don’t believe it is the place for you know that you are doing yourself more good than bad even if the evidence isn’t immediate. College not only is the source of your freedom to secure a life full of choices, but it is the source of power to make excellent choices based on world exposure. Stay encouraged, young scholar!
Welcome to my views from this horizon!