Looking back, is College worth it?

It’s nearing the time when school starts back up again, and I’m nearly done my four years of formalized education in a college setting. Over the past few years I’ve learned quite a bit, yet most of this learning has taken place outside of the classroom.

I remember being fifteen years old, working at McDonalds, and realizing that if I don’t put in the extra work, I could end up working there. This thought scared me, so I started to do everything I could to differentiate myself. I took unpaid internships where I knew I was getting screwed over, yet I knew I had to start somewhere (high school is the perfect time to begin – no bills, commitments, etc). For me, going to college was just another step towards getting a job that I actually wanted, not one that I needed.

College Lesson #1 – I am in Charge of my Learning

My first lesson didn’t take very long to understand. I’ve always loved reading, so I began to pick up marketing books at the local bookstore, viciously reading everything I could. I quickly started to realize that this material was different from the textbook I paid over a hundred dollars for. The majority of content seemed antiquated, and I began to feel like I was missing something in my college classes.

Thankfully, many of my classes were small, so I had the ability to point out new trends which I was observing. Professors seemed very excited that I was learning on my own, which I found strange. Isn’t that what college is for? This leads to my next point…

College Lesson #2 – Laziness is Rampant

I’m not gonna lie – I spend too much time at my computer. This is true with many college students, yet I am constantly reading articles where I am learning something valuable. I quickly noticed that many friends would spend their entire day watching movies, partying, and killing brain cells. Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s very important to balance out learning and relaxing, but skipping classes (almost daily), is nothing short of laziness.

I quickly learned that it takes motivation to fight this lifestyle. For some reason, watching my peers gave me a new sense of energy (kind of like watching someone work at McDonalds). I didn’t want to be in that situation, so I continued to exert extra effort to differentiate myself.

College Lesson #3 – Experience trumps Grades

In my classes, there were a few students who would pour their soul into homework. To be honest, I found this funny and sad at the same time. While I envy their motivation, I poured my time and energy into off-campus activities. I started my own “business” in high school, so I would work with clients on a regular basis, and quickly realized that grades don’t matter.

A textbook can’t teach the intangibles, yet the intangibles are what’s needed to succeed. I was constantly put in situations where I would have to think on my feet, be creative, and solve complex problems. Better yet, I was put in positions where I failed, and learned valuable life lessons in the process. In college, the answer is almost always found in the textbook. Unfortunately, there’s no textbook for life.

College Lesson #4 – A great Professor is RARE!

I do my best to get along with my professors, yet I have no respect for someone who is just as lazy as the student. In college there’s teachers who automate their class, teaching deprecated material that’s older than my parents, and there’s teachers who inspire students to learn on their own.

For me, it’s very easy to tell if a professor cares about their students. Are the powerpoints updated with fresh material? Do they spend the extra time to get to know their students?

The best professor I ever had would remember the names of his 180 students (each semester), and cared enough to walk up to them (outside of class) and encourage them about their grade on the last test. I found this insane and awesome at the same time. This same teacher sent me a personalized email at the end of the course saying that “I knew you could get an A.”

A great professor inspires students to reach their potential. My only wish is that I had more professors like this during my time in school.

College Lesson #5 – Higher Education is a Business

This next point I wish wasn’t true, yet I have seen time and time again how institutions are more concerned about attracting  new students than retaining existing ones. College orientation days and campus tours are the biggest joke I have ever seen.

What I find even more disconcerting is how students are required to take certain classes. Some classes I have taken are useless,  yet I have to have 120 credits or else I am not capable of being a productive, working citizen. It’s pretty ironic because I currently am on salary at a job (web developer) that has very little to do with what I have learned over the past four years in marketing classes.

Overall, I’m pretty disappointed that I learned so little in college, yet in my next blog post, I’ll explain an education that I wish I had. Stay tuned by following me on twitter.

Luke Thomas

About Luke Thomas

I'm a Mainer in technology who likes growing internet companies and sharing stories about what I learn along the way. Also reading, soccer, and experimenting.

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