A PSA About College

It’s occurred to me that I actually don’t know when high schools in the US finish for the summer. I’m still reducing my speed through school zones on the way to and from work, so I presume some of them are still in session- having been home-schooled overseas my whole life, I can only really guess.

One way or another, though, kids will be finishing up, or will have just finished up, so it’s high time we at Culture War Reporters dispense some unsolicited paternalistic wisdom to all the youngsters about college.

I. Go to a Bad College

Readers, I attended one of the best schools in the country. I got two degrees, made the best friends I’ll ever have, and generally had a good time. I by no means regret my choice of college. That said I wouldn’t encourage anyone else to go there. Or to any good school.

Readers, we’re told that the purpose of extracurricular activity and good grades in high school is to get into a good college, which will, in turn, get us into good jobs.

Quite simply, readers, this is a lie.

The simple truth of the matter is that no employer cares where you went to college. I have yet to see any employer ask about a job candidate’s choice of school. They simply do not care. Whether you went to an Ivy League university or some local barely-accredited party school is irrelevant to whether or not you can actually do the job. Perhaps- perhaps– once upon a time a diploma was a magical affidavit demonstrating the bearer as a veritable god among men, but today a degree really is just a slip of paper.

Now I am not saying that you shouldn’t go to college.

In spite of the growing sentiment that college is just some money-sucking scam, the simple truth of the matter is that you will need a degree to expand the variety of jobs open to you, which in this day and age of rocky economies and layoffs is more important than ever. You just don’t need to be spending 120,000 dollars on a slip of paper when you can get the exact same thing from somewhere else for a fraction of the price.

II. Your Grades Don’t Matter

Of course, you’re not just spending a small fortune on college, you’re spending four years of your life. In spite of the media’s portrayal of college as nothing but debauched parties and pranks, most people in college spend their time studying or in class. And it’s a shame it’s such a waste.

Even lower on the list of things an employer cares about than where you went to college is what you did in college. I have never, ever heard an employer ask about a GPA. Now you might be thinking “But surely my grades demonstrate how well I understand the nature of the job I’m applying for!”

It does not.

There’s such a massive disconnect between what you learn in college and what you actually do in your work that whether you aced Abnormal Psychology or barely squeaked by is totally irrelevant. Chances are high that you’ll never actually apply anything you learned in college- in terms of your degree anyways (more on that in a sec).

Look, I’m not some tool who thinks college is just some time to explore your identity or sexuality or to goof off. It’s not about having some “experience.” College is education. Education is work. It’s just that your work is being spent on something that ultimately doesn’t matter. And I’m not some slacker trying to vindicate myself. I studied in college and got good grades in college (for both of my degrees). I was on the president’s list in my final semester.

And none of that matters.

I wish it did. I wish what we were all told was true- that the amount of effort you put into something will be equal to the amount of reward that effort yields. But the reality of the situation is that the race is not given to the swift and the battle not to the strong. A person who parties his entire college career is no worse off than someone who spent his weekends studying.

III. Learn to Lie and Manipulate

The most useful and applicable things you’ll learn in college won’t be in any obscenely-priced textbook or barely legible syllabus. You’ll certainly learn in college- just not what’s ever intended. More than anything else, you’ll learn how to effectively deceive and manipulate others for your benefit.

I understand that sounds awful, but you know what?

…It is.

Yeah, it just is. There’s no real vindication here- it’s just the facts of the matter. Colleges are full of professors who want their own views parroted back to them (especially if they’re in the English department) or want to hear their stances validated. If you do want good grades, you’re going to have to learn to pepper your papers and presentations with buzz words that will get your teachers’ approval. One way or another, you’re going to be learning to skim, to borrow notes, to improvise, and to generally fake your way through whatever gets thrown at you. And readers, those are things you’re actually going to be using in life. Brown-nosing, pandering, flattering, margin indentation (don’t pretend like you don’t know what I’m talking about). I don’t claim it as anything ethical, but I’ve benefited way more in life from the BS-ing I honed in college than any of the actual material.

IV. You Are Responsible for Your Education

…As in “You are are responsible for your education because you sure ain’t getting any help from the school with it.”

Again, none of this is meant to take up the “no-college” banner. However, with courses so often boiling down to regurgitating whatever was on the professor’s PowerPoint, you really are going to find yourselves without much help when it comes to learning… anything. If you’re lucky, you’ll run into teachers who truly foster independent thought, but it’s not something I’d say you can count on. Still, since you have a college at your disposal, why not take advantage of that? College, if nothing else, is an opportunity for you to see what kind of adult you’re going to become. It’s a chance for you to test how well you can function independently. It’s a chance to start forming positive habits which are going to get you through till retirement, should you be fortunate enough to have one. Learn to be punctual with getting to class, even if you don’t learn much when you get there. Head over to the library and find something you want to learn about, and find out how to learn everything about it.

V. Have Fun

I’ve been railing pretty hard on the idea that college is just about fun, but that’s only because I really am annoyed by how many people seem to view college as a place to get hammered on light beer while spiraling into debt. That said, I’m not some soulless killjoy. I’m just out of college and this one truth is hitting me especially hard:

So yeah, don’t be one of those people used as a reason for keeping the drinking age at 21, but do take advantage of the time you have. Stay up all night. Hang out with friends. Blow off a class to go sledding.

Or do this.

One response to “A PSA About College

  1. Pingback: Extended Adolescence, 20s, and Purpose | Culture War Reporters

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