Know how to make the most of your time at college

Originally Posted on The Triangle via UWIRE

Photograph courtesy of McElspeth at Pixabay.

Is college worth it? That’s a question I’ve been thinking about for a long time now. Between the classes I’ve taken, the people that I interact with on a weekly basis and the experiences I’ve had as a college student, I’ve been tossing this question around in my head for so long, and a definite answer still escapes me.

Yes, it is expensive, and it does force you to study a lot of areas that you may not find at all interesting. And yes, there is a lot of work involved that ultimately feels fruitless. Have there been days where I’ve asked myself, “What am I doing here?” Absolutely! I’ve had some moments where I’ve considered just calling it a day, packing up my stuff and hitting the road because the struggle was becoming too much for me to handle.

Sophomore year in particular made me question if I’d made the right decision by coming to college to study English, and for a while, I wasn’t sure. Despite all of the negative things that I can say about the overall experience of college, I think the positives in this case are equally as heavy.

I would say that more than anything else, college is about having an understanding of what it is that you want. Not what it is that you want to do, but what it is that you want. You’re committing to four or more years of academic study, which is a heavy commitment regardless of your field. You probably don’t need me to tell you that, but I feel it’s important to address because I know I didn’t seriously contemplate what I was getting myself into when I signed up for this roller coaster ride, and I certainly didn’t know what I wanted at the time.

I knew that I wanted to pursue writing and reading in some form, but I didn’t know what I wanted from college itself. In retrospect, I can’t say whether or not college is necessarily worth it. Plenty of people have become successful without going through college, so we all know that it isn’t a requirement. College is one way of getting knowledge, and I don’t think it should necessarily be held to such a high degree that people view it as a necessity or believe that they will be hopeless without it.

If your end goal is to get a degree that will put you in a favorable position to acquire a well-paying job, then college will no doubt benefit you greatly. However, just going through the motions to get a degree for a job is a waste of time at college. You can get that degree and great job by doing the bare minimum to jump through the hoops, and by bare minimum, I mean focusing on getting good grades.

Now, I am by no means trying to say that aiming to get good grades is bad. How much care and effort you put toward grades is completely up to you, and I don’t think it’s my place to judge. The point I’m trying to push forward is that it would be a waste to not take advantage of the incredibly vast number of resources and opportunities that are available.

The degree is important to a certain extent but so are the people that you meet and the connections that you make. That is where the real value of college has come from for me. For a while, I didn’t understand the people that would say to me, “college will be some of the best years of your life, so enjoy it,” but now I think I have at least somewhat of a grasp on what they meant.

College is where many people first learn to be truly independent. Of course, some people learn how to be that earlier or later in life, but it acts as a threshold of sorts for many people. Everyone faces their own individual adversities in college, but there are some challenges that we all have to face to varying degrees: time management, spending money carefully, making mistakes and remembering to take care of ourselves in a general sense. Some of us struggle with these challenges more than others, but each of us have to undergo our own trials and tribulations. This is where the most significant form of growth happens in my opinion, for learning how to be a responsible adult is certainly a more valuable thing to possess than a degree.

Getting back around to my original question of college being worth it, I think the answer can be both yes and no. As with most things, your answer will primarily depend on what your perspective is and what you think college does and does not offer you as an individual. Your perspective will change over time. While today you might say yes, you might say no at some point in the future.

In all honesty, it’s very good to ask ourselves questions like these when we’re calling major decisions we make into question. This goes beyond college, as that is only one major decision in our life. There are many significant things we do in life that we should put under scrutiny to be sure they are right for us as people. Accepting a job offer, moving to a new place, starting a family and deciding on what beliefs are important to you, among other things, are things you should really think about before acting upon. You could very well discover something is worthwhile about yourself through this mode of self-questioning that you weren’t aware of before.

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