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10/29/2002

College. Huh! What is it good for?

Filed under:General — eric @ 5:42 am

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Each year in the US, nearly two and a half million high school seniors enroll in college. Nearly one million do not. They are overwhelmingly poor, rural, and white. The Washington Post has profiled one such young man.

I’m not doing what I studied in college. Most of the people I know are not doing what they studied in college. This could lead one to say that college is a waste of time, leaving attendees tens of thousands of dollars in debt and fighting for the same entry level jobs as everyone else.

Poppycock, I say. College is about more than what’s learned in classes. If one takes advantage of the opportunities to be found at college (many attendees don’t — this is part of the problem), one will leave a much richer person.

Not financially, of course, though if you look for the right school, the right non-loan financial aid, and the right part-time jobs, there’s no need to run up a huge debt. I’m very proud that I put myself through school (with the help of a guardian angel). It wasn’t easy, but I did well for myself, emerging with a very manageable debt.

I also emerged with a deeper appreciation for life around me. I could have travelled the world, but in college the world came to me. Music, religion, language, arts, politics, food, sports. I learned European folk dance. I learned how to play cricket. I learned how to lead and represent 1200 people. I explored dangerous mines in the middle of the night. I learned how to ride a block of ice down a steep hill. I learned how to love. And so much more. Things that I never might have done had I not gone to college. And learning all those things, not part of the curriculum but definitely part of college, make me a better person than I was 13 years ago.

So if you’re a high school upperclassman, debating on whether college is right for you, I say it is. Go. It doesn’t matter who you are or where you are from, you can find a way to go. You may have to work harder than your roommate, who’s parents pick up the bill, but it’s worth it. And most importantly, take advantage of every opportunity you can while you’re there, instead of only sitting in the dorm or frat house drinking (though you should do some of that, too). Even in the tiny college towns, the opportunities are there — poetry readings, free concerts, foreign student pot lucks, one off afternoon lectures on oddball topics. Find them and go.