Upon entering the university system, I’ve noticed a few things. After two weeks of classes, I can tell you that I am struggling. The lectures are in direct opposition to the type of learning I experienced in high school. I battled with the administration at my old school, but the style of learning complimented my desire to communicate and learn from others ideas. Socratic seminars and discussion based learning were exactly the types of tools I needed to succeed in education. Now, I’m sitting in a lecture hall for 1.5 hours and listening to someone I don’t know talk at me. So why am I still here?
Well, a couple of reasons. The first one being, it has only been two weeks. I don’t want to discredit my experience thus far as I understand that it is likely not much will change, but I also want to be 100% honest. Perhaps I will grow to appreciate what my lecturers say, but just because I am grateful for their time still doesn’t make it valuable for me to stay. In reality, the fact that I don’t feel as though I am receiving anything from this experience is costing me time and money. $1,500 a semester to be clear. This is a lot less than many others pay, but that’s beside the point. It wouldn’t matter if it were $1,500 or $15, it’s still at a cost to my profit and my energy.
I’m also quite anxious about the idea of leaving. Fear is definitely a major factor as to why I’m still in school. Before we go back to the whole “2 weeks” thing again, let me just state that I was “in school” for twelve years prior to this. Everyone who told me that life in college would be different than life in high school was not speaking from relevant experience. Most of them went to college or university decades ago. From what I’ve seen, 90% of university life is very similar in respect to high school life. A few notable differences would be a change in where and how you live (unless you went to a school near your home and still live with your parents), the people you are surrounded by, and how your schedule is arranged.
It is true that you have more freedom in college, but “more” is a relative term in this sense. In many countries around the world, there are laws requiring a certain amount or level of education before you can tap out. In college, you can leave whenever you want, but most people still don’t. This is because universities can and do take advantage of societal norms that have developed due to an increase in university attendance and graduation.
Think of most of the people in the workforce that you’ve met. What’s often one of the first things that they say when you ask them about their job or why they chose to do what they do? “Well I went to X University and graduated with Y Degree…” In the past, a university education was truly something of benefit to most people. As time went on, more people started going to university, banks started offering larger loans so schools started raising tuition, and all of the sudden we’re in the 21st century and have trillions of dollars in student loan debt. When going to college after secondary school became a requirement for jobs or even just a social norm, everything that was connected with higher education took advantage of that. Now we have 18 year olds who are willingly putting themselves into massive debt out of fear of not being able to make money in the future.
Yes, I am still enrolled in a university, and yes, I do plan on finishing this year at the very least. I have definitely bought into the fear mongering that universities benefit from. I would never claim that every university directly uses fear tactics to maintain their student population, but I doubt they would complain about the societal consequences and judgement that comes from dropping or opting out of university. It’s not “too late” for anyone to change their mind, but many don’t out of worry. They wonder what they would do if they left. It’s never a bad idea to get involved in alternative education and learn as much as possible about the options out there. Here’s a fantastic article from Praxis about all of the college alternatives that have been popping up recently.
Similar to my other articles, I want to advocate self discovery. Spend your time figuring out what you enjoy doing and put your energy towards that. No one, not the government, not a potential employer, not even your family has any right to tell you what is a valuable or meaningful use of your time. Research your options and understand what is available to you. There are many many universities, and you may think that you have to choose between them but you don’t even have to consider them if you don’t want to. Don’t allow fear of the lack of a degree to make you give up your time and money. You only have so many days to make your impact.