It feels a little silly to draft a post about “the benefits of college” when I haven’t exactly been viciously attacked for pursuing a higher education, but I’ve been thinking about it a lot lately. Part of me wants to defend college for the people who politely ask me what I plan to do after this “enormous waste of time and money” and part of me wants to convince myself that it will ultimately be worth it. I vividly remember a period, just about one year ago, when I was graduating from high school and contemplating the necessity of following yet another paved path. “What’s the point?” I thought, “of taking a predetermined track and adopting an endless loop of social hierarchy and expectations?”
Why am I shelling out so much money? Why am I sticking myself in the same place for four years? Why am I perpetuating a system that seems to rely almost entirely on blind faith and habit? And all for a degree that doesn’t promise me a job? It’s because I’ve fallen in love with movies and gotten back into reading books. Or because I’ve learned to notice and appreciate beauty, excellence, and skilled performance in all domains of life. Or because I feel more alive here than anywhere else. Or because I figured out that photography is really up my alley. Or because there exists a place where all of the external events of my life can converge into something even less tangible, something internal, which for all intents and purposes comes off as anticlimactic: learning how to think.
It’s true that I’ve learned more outside of a classroom than from a professor and those classes are technically what the money goes toward, but I want to remove the monetary amount for a moment. You can’t really put a price on a passion. This is where I meet people, with diverse interests and majors, who teach me how important it is to care about what you do, or even if you don’t completely know what you’re doing, just to exercise care and control. I know people studying subjects across the board and even if they are not my jam, I can engage in the material if someone who really loves it is explaining why it matters. These four years are unique in that never again will so many people who care so much about so many things will be in one place. I think our sense of awe with the world shoots up exponentially when we are kids and peaks in college. For most, it’s all downhill from there, at least in my observation.
I won’t undermine how lucky I am to be where I am, but I think college is mostly about “getting out what you put in” and the resources are more or less the same anywhere you go, at least after reaching a certain threshold. Eventually, sure, I suppose the “end goal” is to “get a degree” and “land a job” but I’m not worried about that. Maybe I should be, but I am at an unexplainable underlying ease with the future. I am more worried about right now, about taking the most I can from the people and places that are offering it to me. Everybody always asks “What’s your major?” followed straightaway by “What are you going to do with it?” I wish people would stop asking me that. I don’t know and I don’t really care, not yet. I’ll know. I don’t need to right now. I’m taking classes and watching movies and reading books and trying to be nineteen years old. I’m learning how to think. That should definitely be enough.
I respect all backgrounds and absolutely do not intend to negate the experience of anyone who went without college for any range of circumstances. The miscellany of human beings doesn’t show itself until you step out of the confines. The real world is outside college, but college is one way of learning how to be apart of it.