Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Five Non-Sucky Reasons to Go to College

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"You need to try harder if you want to get into college."
"Better retake that test so you can get into a good college."
"When you're in college..."
I've been hearing about college my whole life, and now I've finally done a year of it. One thing I've learned is that college is not for everyone. Sometimes that's for financial reasons, though those can be overcome through grants, scholarships, carefully choosing cheap schools, and frugal living. I've watched a lot of friends take breaks from school or forgo college together for other reasons. Health, physical and mental. Family circumstances. Traumatic events. Dreams and goals that simply don't require you to have a college diploma to access them.
While a university education is not for everyone, here are five reasons I find value in my education, and they all reach beyond the cliche "You don't wanna flip burgers for the rest of your life."
My college people

1. College is where the people are. YOUR people.
Whether you view yourself as a full-fledged adult the second that diploma touches your hand or not, one thing is sure: Graduating high school means you lose your flock. You are scattered and absorbed into the ranks of the Old People. Any activity that gets you out of the house-work, church, volunteering-usually puts you in a mix of people older and younger than you. This is especially hard after your senior year, when everything in you is focused on graduation and you only want to talk to people who can relate to that. No matter how solemnly you swear you'll keep your squad together, you'll drift apart, and you need to find new friends. I loved spending my first year in a dorm (despite the cramped living conditions) because there were always people my age just seconds away. Schools are the only large-scale organizations where you can be surrounded by people in the same stage of life as you. And let's be honest, college is where you find dates. Sure, there's an app for that now, but reasonably attractive people under the age of twenty five shouldn't be using tinder. You're still hot enough to go to parties and find a date in the outside world.

2. Generals don't suck that much, and they don't last forever
Yeah, college is a great chance to study whatever you want, but what about all those lame general educations courses you have to whether through first? It's not as painful as you think. My generals only really take up three of the eight semesters I'll be in college, and I could've done it a lot faster. After my freshman year, I only have six generals courses left to take. Two of those are upperclassman courses that double count toward my major, so I get to put them off a while. I'm intentionally procrastinating the art requirement because I want to have a fun class balance out a heavier term later on. The rest of my generals will all be done and gone after my next semester.
I actually wish they could last longer. Everybody's interested in things beyond that One Big Thing they want to do with their lives. I'd never want to be a plant science major, but I have questions about the green things growing around me, and taking a plants class satisfied that curiosity while earning me generals credit. I love history, but I'm majoring in English, so I'm happy that my generals can justify me taking a history class next semester. Most majors overlap with generals anyway. All the art, design, and illustration majors have to take art history. There goes your history requirement. My English major? Covers three generals. I've heard a lot of college graduates say, "I loved my major, until I actually had to major in it." Studying the same thing for four years bogs you down. Generals are built to give you variety.
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3. You get to travel the world
I'm doing a study program this summer that will start in Boston and conclude in Nebraska.
It's not really a study abroad, despite out program director's stubborn insistence that we're journeying "abroad in the land", but we still get to travel. Everyone should see the world when they're young. During my first semester, I had an assignment where I had to get on the school's study abroad page, pick a program that seemed somewhat enjoyable, and write a 250 word response on it. I thought I would get it done in a few minutes, but I got caught up for several hours scrolling through the different adventures I could take. It was raining that day, and I felt small stuck inside my little dorm room, ready to travel the world. I still go back to the website whenever I have a spare minute to waste on the Internet. Some way or another, I'm taking a term in Europe before graduation.

4. Professors teach like intelligent people
One of my biggest teacher pet peeves is when an instructor makes a statement and doesn't back it up. Example: "Studies show that students who use their planners everyday are more successful." What study? Who conducted it? Was this study done before or after the invention of phone calendars? Will using a planner make more successful careerwise, or does this just apply to school?
Another one I hear a lot is when the phrase "in our society" or "in our culture" is used with no counter culture examples. My sophomore English teacher once told us, "In our society, what you do during your waking hours is considered more important than what happens in yours dreams. In other societies this is not the case." And then she left off at that. Well? Where are these mysterious, dreamy societies? Can I go visit them and chat about my dreams? Or are they societies who ceased to exist long ago?
During the first few weeks of my school year, my Western Humanities professor clicked through some slides on Ancient Greek art and said, "In our culture, portraying the human body is a major part of art."
Me: Yeah, Teach? What culture doesn't do that? You have to draw people. People are everywhere.
Professor: "In other cultures, such as the Islamic artistic tradition, this is not the case."
Me: Oh.
A few weeks later she gave us a unit on Islam and Middle Eastern art. We actually got to learn why Islamic art concentrates on geometric patterns rather than animals and people instead of being told, "Don't worry about it, that's not part of the lesson." If something is not at all part of the curriculum, you can ask the professor after class and they'll say, "If you want to study that, go take this class by Professor So-and-So instead."
One way or another, you learn what you want to learn.

5. Never a Dull Moment
If you move out to go to college (which I highly recommend, because the whole parents thing kind of loses its charm after eighteen, and they're sick of you too) then there's always fun to be had around campus. Everything's free or cheap with a student ID. I never cared much for high school sports, but you can bet I cheer my Cougars on now that I'm at BYU. It's not just sports, either. I found myself going to piano recitals, ballets, zumba classes, ballroom dance concerts, human trafficking summits, Disney History Club animation night, MLK commemoration walks, weird Swedish movie screenings, a guest lecture from Ruby Bridges, and more. And when there's not some official campus event going on, we make our, ahem, unofficial fun. By the way, it's against the law to go turtle hunting in the BYU duck pond at 2:00 A.M. Be sure to check with your campus's police for similar laws before going swimming. I am unable to show a picture for this item because it might get a certain friend in trouble.

Is college one long party? No. There's actual homework involved. School sucks your life away, but you steal some life back and live in stolen moments. And THAT's when the party starts. 

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