I love college. Whether you’re in Harvard (1), Princeton (2), Stanford (5), Brown (15), GW (51), AU (79), Clark (86), Stony Brook (99) or any other top college/university in
the US, or around the world, you know exactly what I mean. US university rankings for 2011 were published by the omniscient US News and World Report-the gold standard for college rankings, in August 2010.
I won’t lie, personally, I’ve always had a bias towards US universities, and I’m willing to argue it out with anyone to prove that US universities are in a class of their own. Now you’re thinking and judging too fast. Hell yes there are exceptions, and that statement isn’t bloody well conclusive! It doesn’t mean I think lowly of universities around the world. On the contrary, I’m still weighing study abroad options in the UK with LSE and Oxford for my junior year in an effort to make this college experience even more euphoric. As I type with my fingers crossed (metaphorically, otherwise not humanly possible, I think), excitement bubbles as my new semester spreads open on Monday.
In this piece I try not to cater to a specific audience. Superficially, it may seem advisory, perhaps aimed at those of you who are wrapping up high school and are ready to think about the next step. If that is the case, perfect. But the piece addresses those of you who are also familiar with the college experience, asking you to appreciate it. Peers abroad sometimes frown at that use of the word “college” as a label for a form of higher education. They find themselves more attached to “university” while “college” to them appears to be the more Americanized lighter version of university. That is nonsensical, but still existent. Writing this piece however makes me…hmm…nervous? There are so many contentions at stake, and some of my reader’s won’t agree with what I say on so many levels. Joy.
Back to the post, I’m not going to tell you that going to college will get you a higher paying job; will make you independent; or will make you more worthy than someone who doesn’t attend college. That is bull shit. Your collegiate benefits are what you make it to be. Instead, the finer nuances of attending college are more valuable to explore. Whether these nuances hold true only to the American college experience, I know not. I see them as having border-less applications around the world, while the American general education and specialization model for the undergrad has been burnished to perfection. Let’s start with three nuances that would be easily missed out if you don’t go to college.
Everyone has an opinion. So?
You’ve heard it everywhere. All men were created equal. Democracy. Free speech, blah blah blah..Everyone is entitled to an opinion. So? Just because everyone has an opinion doesn’t mean that all their opinions matter the same in terms of value. Harsh but admittedly true. Think about it. Like a person’s opinion on a piece of literature. A random person has an opinion on a book, and so does another who has a BA/MA/PhD in Literature. Whose opinion would you value more? The latter didn’t spend 4-8 years at college, spending over $45, 000 a year specializing in an art/science to have the same opinion as the layman. Would you take economic advice from your local drug dealer or pay attention to Paul Krugman? “All opinions are the same”—that is a myth. College makes yours matter.
You learn the unlearned. Some professors I see more on CNN than I do on campus. The honor of learning from them is too delectable at times. While the learning process of college is the most important attraction, it is really
the tiny tidbits that you pick up here that are the most gratifying. Whether it is learning from a celebrity professor that a mirror has been lying to you all your life, that we don’t breathe when we drink, that a simple dream analysis through the art of dream interpretation can tell you so much about yourself, or that language can never be controlled—which is why we seek to control it, all the subtleties college has to teach you is mind blowing. You will understand and see the world in a light you never thought existed. So much more cocktail party conversation topics will now be at your disposal. Go get your swagger on.
American Pie or Wonder Boys?
The college experience. Going through the approximate four years, I foresee, are potentially bitter sweet. They will push you beyond anything you thought possible of yourself, but isn’t that what we really need? Whether it be making deadlines, dealing with the stress, dealing with the ecstasy, or the independence of answering for the first time in your life to no one but yourself, living the process of going to college is everything. As Harlen Cohen mentions in his book The Naked Roommate, college is a place where you can have the worst experience of your life and the best experience of your life, all in the same day.
In the end opportunity is the only thing that will let you attend college. By opportunity, I don’t mean your class, wealth, intelligence, disposition or level of ambition. I mean every single factor that functions in the holistic of making the thought of college a reality for you. They can be as minute as your parents just being open-minded about allowing you to attend or as grandiose as you winning that full ride scholarship. As Dumbledore once said, “you are
who you chose to be.” College is an opportunity that dangles on choice. Take your pick. Adieu.