I am amazed at the number of people who ask me if it’s worth going to — or going back to — college.
Hm. It’s a simple enough question. I wish life was filled with easy answers. Thankfully, I have a checklist that might be able to help you out.
- Do you like to read? College requires you to read books. Real books. With a forward and an afterword. (Yes, you have to read those.) Being a ‘googled learner’ is bullshit. Just because you can look it up doesn’t mean that you know it. Reading creates new pathways and helps you to learn stuff. And you can’t multitask and read. If you don’t like to read and you can’t force yourself to turn off the iPod long enough to focus on the words, you won’t do well in college.
- Do you have a support network? There is only one time in your life when you are allowed to work part-time, focus on school, and hang out with your friends all weekend. It’s between the ages of 17-23… and most people don’t even get that opportunity. After the age of 23, it’s fundamentally harder to split your time between the real world and philosophy classes. Priorities shift. If you have children at a young age, forget about it. So if you have a chance to experience a traditional college life, grab it. And don’t blow it.
- Do you genuinely hate to learn? There are some people who think they know everything. Carry a chip on their shoulders. Hate to be challenged. I would ask — Can you listen to other people who think they’re right? Can you have your opinions challenged? Do you want to punch smart & cultured people in the face? Because college is one ego-bruising experience after another. You will be forced to interact with people who are actually smarter than you (ugh) and will stop at nothing to remind you of this on a daily basis. And you are expected to learn from those people. Get used to it or get out.
- Do you want to work? College is the barometer of whether or not you are employable. I’m sorry. It’s true. Elementary and secondary schools have failed our children. Instead of shifting the blame away from teachers unions and demanding greater accountability (of parents & administrators & students), we now blame teachers and enroll our kids in college and expect them to learn basic math and English comp when they are 19 years old. It’s not gonna happen — but with grade inflation, everyone passes! Hooray! And nobody cares that we graduate functionally illiterate adults. (But I’m off the point.) College is the new high school. Actually, graduate school is the new college. So if you are not attending university, have a plan B. Fuck it, have a plan C. You will always have to prove to the world that you can read, spell, and breathe through your nose instead of your mouth. Good luck with that.
I have no idea if you should go to college or enroll in online college classes, but I do know this: adults work. You need a job. In my family, the jobs look like this.
Personal assistant, paralegal, plumber, LPN, housekeeper, drug & alcohol counselor, dental hygienist, cop, cook, waitress, teacher, professor, personal trainer, bartender, factory worker, receptionist, retail worker, computer programmer, store manager, truck driver, logistics coordinator, beautician, restaurant manager, printer, fireman, and housewife.
I am the first woman in my family (on either side) with a degree and I am a Human Resources chick. I’m not sure what that says…
…but I know that my experience in college broadened my cultural horizons, lifted my personal expectations about life, and put me into debt. That’s why I started working in Human Resources. But I’ll tell you this much: without college, there is no Laurie. There is a working-class woman named Lauren (ugh) who lives on the northwest side of Chicago and has three kids from two different men. She dreams about travel, owning a home, and a life without three kids and a couple of deadbeat ex-husbands.
I know this about myself, so college was worth it for me.
Is it worth it to you?