Near the end of my high school career, I was asked countless times what my plans were after graduation. Without skipping a beat I would respond, “I’m going to college [duh].”
It was set in stone. I refused to go to the nearby, highly-ranked community college where I could knock out my bullshit general education credits, figure out what I wanted to do, and save thousands if not tens of thousands of dollars…I refused to stay back and work and develop and grow myself to discover what I was passionate about and what I could bring to the table.
No. I had to go to a four year university—a place where I could get the full college experience. Why? Not because I was a great student (I was a terrible student). Not because I had a school in mind which specialized in the field I was interested in (I had no clue what I wanted from my life). Not to make my resume look juicier (I refuse to work somewhere where they care more about a place I went to school than my personality or my unique qualities). I had to go to college simply because it’s what you do.
The only reason I went to university was to avoid looking like a loser. I didn’t want to be the only one of my close friend group to stay back at mom’s house while all my buddies were getting ‘smarter,’ doing molly at parties they weren’t invited to, having sex, and making newer and more interesting relationships. But most of all, I didn’t want to disappoint my family. Consisting of mostly traditional and conservative thinkers, my family stressed the importance of an education…and we never had a conversation where the subject of school didn’t take the driver seat.
But here’s what happened: My college career ended in failure—on paper and emotionally. Like I said, I was a shit student. Why did I think anything would drastically get better when you took away supervision, gave me access to drugs and alcohol, and threw me into a system in which I never wanted to be in in the first place?
Everything I just said sounds so incredibly arrogant and I’m aware of that. I take full responsibility for my lack of success in academia. My point is that I was a child. I understand that we need to send kids off to learn about themselves and solve problems on their own at some point. My thesis is not that college is evil. College is a beautiful choice for specific fields or if you truly want to continue your education. I don’t want a surgeon operating on me who Googled how to do the operation the night before.
What I disagree with is this: College isn’t the only way. It shouldn’t be pushed as the only option for a successful and satisfying life. It’s not even the best way, not for everybody. We all have different passions with various mechanics of learning. Personally, I laugh when I think about the amount of hours I spent trying to gather information by sitting in a class, listening to a lecturer, and taking notes on something I didn’t care about and didn’t remember a month later. That’s not me.
And I get it. Having a degree can make someone feel accomplished and I don’t want to demean or belittle that for anyone. It can certainly show someone that you have enough grit to complete the schooling system.
But what else can prove that you’re worth hiring over the next person? How great you are at communicating with people? How quickly you learn and adapt? How passionate you are and how willing you are to go above and beyond? How easily you lead and inspire people? Do we need college for all of this? For some people, sure. But it’s undeniable that we can find these phenomenal qualities outside the classroom. I just know too many people who work lovely, fulfilling jobs, making excellent money, who didn’t put themselves in $40,000 of debt for a piece of paper which says they’re more talented than others.
I understand I have a biased opinion. But that’s exactly what I’m writing about. It didn’t work for me. Sure, I could’ve worked harder and cared more. What I’m saying is I didn’t. I was a child. A child in a big school of children and I was told to “figure my life out” and I had no fucking clue. I made childish decision after childish decision until it caught up to me and blew up in my face. Then I had to go back to square one—mom’s house.
It was like I went back to high school and it was depressing. But here’s the thing: I’ve learned more about myself and the world in these two years being back at mom’s than I ever did in a classroom. About 30 times more. I’ve had time to pursue my curiosity, find my passions, read and learn about the world, have disorganized and sloppy conversations, make mistakes, and develop myself as a person and an intellect.
If anyone in academia reads this, please leave with this:
I respect each and every hard-working soul who fights for the education of those next in line. I would never bash a teacher, student, or parent who is thrilled that their kid got into college or made Dean’s list. Schooling is a beautiful and safe way to secure a structure for yourself. It can be a great tool…I just resent the idea that it is the only tool…the idea which was pumped into my head and the heads of countless others.