Did you choose to go to college or did social pressure and a desire to make money push you toward this decision? If you are the former, then I commend you for your desire to learn and to spend your hard-earned money here. If you are the latter, then college might not be the right choice, at least for the moment.
It would be impossible to say, without conducting a fairly encompassing survey, how many students here at the university are really here because they love to learn and how many are here just because of familial or social pressures. From the students interviewed for this article, nearly all of them expressed in one way or another that they wouldn’t attend college if they could just have the money to do what they wanted. Say what you will about this mentality, but it doesn’t express any sort of enjoyment in the process of learning. Admittedly, CU’s idea of learning is a little different than the kind we do on our own. Researching your next purchase is typically more enjoyable than writing a dissertation.
I am not trying to downplay the education that we receive here at the university. The knowledge you gain in classes sets you up with an excellent base to build off of for the rest of your life. However, it is the learning we engage in on our own time on topics such as social ideas, politics and economics that most pertains to our overall wellbeing. We might be required to learn information we do not immediately value in class, but in our free time, we can learn the information that we do consider essential and relevant to our own lives.
This part-time learning helps fulfill us. It is my belief that the telos, or end-all goal, of humanity is the acquisition of knowledge. This is why the news is important to us, why people watch movies and why we do just about anything. It’s all in the pursuit of acquiring more information, which is another way of saying “learning.”
Different types of learning beget different results. Reading a historical account of the lives of Nordic people is a lot different from watching Game of Thrones and, as such, your world view would be different if you only consumed one or the other. It is a matter of opinion, but many agree that the closer to reality your worldview, the better. This continuous state of engagement with worldly material translates directly to self-improvement.
It is a generally accepted standard among most American families that you ought to go to college, otherwise, you will not get a “good job.”
Well, the only thing that will get you into a “good job” is work ethic and college won’t teach you that. Work ethic is a characteristic that one must take steps to cultivate; it requires the will to act. It is fool-hearty to believe that college will endow you with this characteristic, as school can only teach you information, not the reactions and decisions you will have as a result of that information. If you don’t do the readings for classes, study as hard as you can and engage in class, you won’t somehow come out of college with the ability to work hard when it counts. How we behave now directly affects who we become.
If, at this point, you do not know what you plan to do in the future, then working and taking some time off might not be a terrible idea. It is possible that you will find out that you don’t need to go to college after all, and that you are capable enough to fend for yourself in the world without it. I say this because of how expensive college is. It is the single greatest purchase you will likely ever make before buying a house. That makes it nothing to bat an eye at, nor something to squander. Perhaps, after taking that time off you find that to secure that job you’ve always wanted you should get a degree; then, by all means, return to college. This time though, you will have significantly more money that you saved by initially entering the workforce, making this educational purchase less daunting.
If you decide that, in fact, you don’t need college at all then why not educate yourself with a free library card. Some may argue that there are a number of highly specialized jobs in this country that require you to be educated. While that is true, if you are internally motivated you can educate yourself on your own. Take a certification course and become qualified. A good friend of mine spent four years in college studying psychology. He graduated, and after two months got a certificate in computer science from an online course and used that certificate to get the job that he’s been doing for the past 23 years. If he had skipped college and just gotten the certificate first, he could have started working four years earlier.
So what might you do if you don’t go to college right away? There are more than a few options for what you can do. There are millions of jobs available, not just in America, but globally. Everything from working as a deckhand on a fishing rig to an accountant for a defense contractor. Volunteering abroad or locally is also an option. It won’t come with a paycheck but it will come with a world of experience that can help you decide what path you might choose to pursue.
College should be a place for students who truly desire to learn. The ones who don’t wish to do so are wasting their time and money here. If you are on the fence about this experience, weigh the decision to work as a viable option. A little space from school can do us some good and teach us the value of learning on our own. Check out a library book and see how easy it is to educate yourself.
Contact CU Independent Staff Writer Walter Madison at walter.madison @colorado.edu.