There are things that I dislike about higher education.
But there are things that I enjoy about it, too. This post is about those things.
First and foremost, I enjoy the atmosphere of curiosity and intellectual exploration. Universities are where ideas are formed, tested, and published. Some ideas are idiotic, but some are great. What is great about the academic atmosphere is that people are free to tell one another their idea is idiotic and then explain why and then propose a new, hopefully less idiotic idea.
In high school, I had no idea what I enjoyed learning about or exploring. But after spending 3.5 years thus far in college, I have a great idea of what I love, what I’m passionate about, and a general idea of what I want my career to look like. That is a huge achievement in a world where many people hate their jobs, don’t know what they love, and thus deal with the obvious dissatisfaction that comes from that.
College has undoubtedly lead me to a better understanding of how the world works. It has done this by filtering me into economics classes. The ironic thing is I haven’t really reaped much understanding from the classes, themselves, but the classes laid a foundation and familiarized me with the world of economics such that I could pursue my own journey of understanding it on my own terms. In other words, I have learned more about economics from Murray Rothbard and Bryan Caplan than my own professors, but I never would have started reading them if it were not for attending class.
The odd thing about college is that the more I learn, the more I know I do not know. College has been humbling in that manner. There is so much that is yet to be known, and there is so much that I think I know that I do not know. I am thankful for this.
College definitely is not for many people, though. Perhaps even most people. It does not serve much purpose for those who have no real ambition for anything. And it certainly does not serve those who do not care to work hard. The irony that I live with is that I was that kind of person when I first started attending. My curiosity and drive for success was directly related to number of classes that I took. Each time I enrolled into a new set of classes, I became more and more entranced with the material I was studying. The idea that “college will automatically lead you to a better, more fulfilled life” is what placed me in college to begin with (via my parents’ mandate), so if that was not present, I probably would not have started going, at least not right away.
The truth is college will not necessarily lead to a better life; many times, it will ruin your life. This is especially apparent with the student loan crisis. With the government expanding the salvific view of college, more people are going, the prices are rising, and more people are leaving with unsatisfied lives and tens of thousands of dollars of debt.
Thankfully I’m not in that boat. My time studying at college has been the most fruitful and satisfying time of my life, and great career opportunities lie ahead – not because of the degree, itself, but because of the work that I put it while obtaining it.
I still have a ways to go before walking the graduation stage, but as of now my response to higher education is a resounding “Thank you!”