Missing College?!!

Greetings, folks!

Now, as you can tell by the title of this post, I am going to talk about college, as well as missing it (or not). This is something that has been tumbling around in my head for the last couple of months, and I would like to use this blog to, hopefully, straighten things out. Organize my thoughts, anyway.

Let’s begin?

As a college graduate, I have to say that, even though it has only been six, seven months since finishing my undergraduate degree, I feel like I have been out of school for a much longer time than that. Feels like years, in fact! Perhaps it’s due to the fact that, right after graduation, I was able to find a job (albeit temporary) teaching in France, as well as choosing not to continue with graduate school. At least, not immediately.

I am pretty sure that those who decided to move directly into graduate school after undergraduate studies do not feel this sentiment, of being away from school for a long time. It is because, well, they are still in school! Studying, taking exams, finding internships, etc. Basically, it’s “Undergrad 2.0” for them. Especially medical and law students- kudos to them.

That said, this feeling of being out of school for a long time now (even though it really hasn’t been that long ago) has caused me, in fact, to ponder on my experiences during my undergrad years. What experiences, you might ask? They vary, but to start, I have especially been considering whether the classes, the activities, and everything in between that all of us do while in college are, well, worth it.

A bit of context: I went to a college that was known for its cutting-edge research; we spend tons of money each year for our tuition (both in-state and out-of-state), in which some of the money goes toward funding such research, whether in the arts, sciences, humanities, etc. Yes, my college has its academic focus, but it is not the main one- it is research.

Now, a college that focuses a lot on research isn’t necessarily a bad thing: in terms of discovering breakthrough concepts and increasing the school’s prestige, it’s impressive. But for classes, for bringing in good professors to teach students, aka the “next generation” in shaping the future, well, that becomes a bit more difficult.

I am not saying that the professors in my college weren’t good instructors. Not at all. In fact, I enjoyed a good handful of them in the Humanities Department (although I can’t say the same for the Sciences…even my science-major peers agree with me), and some of them really gave me a new perspective on societal and literary issues. I am forever indebted to them, for teaching me how to think, how to be critical, how to question facts, and otherwise how to challenge the world and make it more complex and rich at the same time. More importantly, my professors have taught me how to become a better writer, and how to foster it. I love writing, but I wouldn’t be here today with my WordPress blog if it weren’t for my education in English literature.

BUT: in terms of practicality beyond academia and research, just how applicable are the things learned to real life? I realized that they were, well, not very useful. The hundreds of hours spent in lecture, the tens of thousands of dollars paid in tuition, the effort we put into doing well on Finals each term- pointless. Yes, it’s a strong word, but unless you desire to remain in the academic field, all of these activities do not have practical application after college, especially once you go into the workforce. If anything, I consider the things that I learned in college as tidbits that I can pull out whenever I want to entertain people, at a cocktail party or something (“Did you know that William Blake had visions of God as a kid, and that inspired much of his poetry?”). I am pretty sure that even the science majors do not find a real-life use to knowing Avogadro’s number, or any other technical conversions like that.

I suppose, though, those are fundamental things that are necessary to learn about, in order to understand how other things work on the macro level, such as how the modern English language came to be (thanks, Shakespeare) or how does water become water (two hydrogens, one oxygen). I guess that, while learning about the literary technique of prosopopoeia (or even knowing how to spell it correctly!) won’t land me a job, learning how to write clearly and effectively will. And I have to thank my English degree for that.

Really, college was a world of its own: away from the “real world” of finding a job, cooking for yourself, and basically “adulting” (which is harder than you will find it to be). So to go back to the question that I had proposed in my post’s title:

Do I miss college?

Yes and no.

I miss the sheltered atmosphere that it had to offer, in terms of accessibility to everything- really, it was so easy. Gyms, food, activities, etc. All included in the tuition. College didn’t teach me to become independent, as all of these things were readily at my disposal. Once I got out of school, I had to earn all of those things- I still am trying.

At the same time, I don’t miss college in that I didn’t learn how to become independent, as I have already said, as well as the questionable utility of the knowledge that I had acquired. Really, tests don’t mean squat, and having a high GPA doesn’t determine whether you’ll succeed in grad school, in the working profession afterwards. What it comes down to is experience. Hands-on experience. I wish that I had some sort of opportunity, perhaps an internship or a seminar course on how to pay bills and deal with difficult co-workers. People don’t realize how incredibly useful vocational stuff like that are to our everyday lives.

Now, at the risk of rambling on and on, I think I will stop here. As said at the beginning of this post, I had wanted to sort out my thoughts about missing college through here. Turns out, though, I think I made them messier than before! Perhaps you understood what I was trying to convey, or perhaps you were utterly lost, but for any recent or soon-to-be-graduates out there, I would be happy to discuss more about this in the Comments. Let me know! 🙂

— The Finicky Cynic

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10 thoughts on “Missing College?!!

  1. Ciara

    As a soon-to-be grad, I’ve recently been pondering over my college experience as well and wondering what I got out of it. Considering that I don’t even want to pursue a career related to my major (visual communication), it does feel like all the things I’ve learned were cool facts and interesting theories, but I still don’t understand taxes and other financial stuff that I actually need to know. And I also agree with the sheltered part! It’s like pretend independence. My school often refers to itself as a bubble which sounds cute freshman year, but then it’s quite worrisome by senior year haha.
    You’ve inspired me to write about my own feelings toward college!

    1. Good thoughts! Glad that you can relate, too. “Pretend independence,” indeed…it works during the first two years of college, but after that it helps to go out on your own. I’m happy that my post has inspired you; I look forward to yours!

  2. I have been out of college for 22 years and there are things I miss about it such as the relationships out of a shared experience. I think the lessons learned were as much about learning from one another as it was in the classroom. I don’t think I would be a good student as a middle-ager though.

    1. Thanks for sharing, Tony. I definitely agree that many of our best memories (or at least, the ones we remember) come from interactions with others. Helps to develop interpersonal skills, as they are indelibly useful for future work, especially when you have to speak! Nice thoughts.

  3. Dude, yea. My feelings about college are so jumbled too. I was gonna post this whole big comment but I don’t even know where to start. It was a waste. I memorized most material for the test and forgot it once I turned the test in. I learned more from the struggles I faced transitioning into adulthood and working full time while being a full time student than I did the whole time I was at school.

    It’s kind of silly but I always joke with my little brother about how I can’t do a certain thing unless I have adult supervision because I don’t feel adult enough to handle it. I’m 23. -_-

    1. Yes, I feel the same way! I think your comment was what I was trying to say in my post (albeit mine was much longer and more convoluted than your comment!). Work, aka hands-on experience, is where you really learn about yourself, about how to be a “real” adult in the real world.

      …and I can definitely relate to having adult supervision; I still don’t go out unless I tell my parents! Thanks for sharing!

  4. koolaidmoms

    I have been out of college and then graduate school for quite awhile. I think that I learned more “practical” skills in graduate school but those skills are also more interpersonal skills too – working with people, how to play the corporate game and being a good manager, boss and leader. I finally learned how to study, learn and disseminate that information effectively. These are things I could have learned outside of college for quite a bit less money but I think the time in college and the people I met and experiences I had truly changed me as a person and I don’t know if I would have been able to get those same lessons anywhere else.

    1. Wise words. Really, it comes down to experience, and I am sure that you gain some of it in school, although most of it comes from outside of the classroom setting. Thanks for sharing! 🙂

  5. I graduated with my English degree in May 2015, and I really hope that you are wrong about college being pointless. But right now, I am working as a bartender trying to find that “real job” that a college education promises. While I value my education and think that it makes me a more well rounded person, I can’t help but feel that all of my expectations have yet to be met. In fact, I got out of college without even knowing what kinds of jobs an undergrad degree in English qualifies you for.

    I started my job search with high expectations thinking that I could find a job in newspapers, magazines, publishing, or even writing more technical things like stereo instructions, but after several months, I had to lower my expectations. And after several more months, I began putting applications for every job opening I could find (even minimum wage). It seems to me that before I earned my degree, it was much easier to get a low paying dead end job. So not only did a degree not qualify me for a good job it also disqualified me from the shitty jobs that I need to make ends meet while I continue to search for that elusive “good” Job. I guess what I need to do is polish my portfolio and apply for competitive graduate degree programs that pay my way through so I don’t rack up tons of new debt (My current degree is already going to take me the next 15 years to pay off, and I didn’t even take out that many loans).

    So please tell me that college was not a waste of time even if you are just lying to me to make me feel better.

    1. Ah, I wish I could lie to you, but I hate being dishonest. 😛 Especially when I can’t avoid or deny responsibilities in the real world…

      Any case, I appreciate your personal story, as I feel like that’s the same road that I will be taking in the next few years. A job is a job, and although it’s ideal to have a job related to your major (or passion, anyway), it’s rarely the case. Sometimes, you need to take what is offered to you at the moment.

      …and loans do suck; I know many graduate friends who are struggling with them. I wish you the best in your endeavors, and hopefully will find something that you want to do! We’re in this together!

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