I’m Dropping Out….

19 Feb

….. Temporarily. Or maybe I should call it “pausing out.” It’s been a month now since spring semester started at my college, and I’m not there. Telling people that I’m taking a semester “off” from college isn’t the most comfortable, honorable thing. Our society has always stressed the importance of following the herd, doing what everyone else is telling us will “lead to success.” However, as a current sophomore in college at a small liberal arts school in Southern California, I have begun to see the signs that this reassuring statement isn’t as valid as it seems and won’t exactly hold up much longer in this day in age. Entrepreneur Michael Karnjanaprakorn recently wrote an article for GOOD Magazine’s website, titled “Why College is Overrated.” His starting lines of the article capture so much of what has been running through my mind recently:

 

We need to debunk the myth that a college degree leads to success. The pinnacle of education should revolve around learning and gaining knowledge.”

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not at all saying that college is unnecessary or not at all valuable. For certain professions, it is absolutely required and necessary. I myself have gained important knowledge from the year and a half I have spent in college thus far, and the statistics supporting what a college education can do for people support the importance of higher education. My realization and the point that I am trying to make is that the majority of colleges are ridiculously overpriced for what students are receiving, and some of the most important pieces of knowledge people can receive is not gained from college, but through engagement in what college students like to refer to as “the real world.” “Instead of looking at where students got their degree, we need to start looking at their real-world experience and the skills they’ve developed,” writes Karnjanaprakorn, “Why hire a student with a degree in “marketing” when their real education is about to start?” Travel and internships, from my own experience and from the wisdom of others, can be the most educational and valuable experiences, especially in our world today, where we are increasingly interconnected as nations and jobs are being rapidly created that didn’t exist 5, 10 years ago.

Another thing: burnout. I think I speak for the majority of my peers when I say that after 13 years of schooling starting at the age of 5, to continue directly on into the system of essay-writing, memorization, taking notes, etc. is VERY DIFFICULT. A recent article in the New York Times states that students in college study a lot less than they used to. 45% of students learn very little in their first two years of college. And how much money are they spending? Thousands. We haven’t even experienced the world, and we don’t know what sort of jobs are out there. Some people may scoff at that statement, but as I mentioned earlier, jobs of today are changing, and people of my age don’t even know what the possibilities are. As Karnjanaprakorn says in an interview, “I think you only know what you see, but there’s so much stuff that you don’t see.” Unless we were lucky enough to find something we were passionate about pre-college that could be a potential career track, we enter higher education with very little ideas about what we want to do and what the possibilities and opportunities are. Coupled with the burn-out from traditional schooling we have been herded through, what happens? Students spend more time partying and on Facebook than fully “hunkering down” and studying what they are passionate about.

For my own self, I’ve realized that before I declare my major, and waste away the rest of my time, energy, and money into college, I want to take this “break” and gain real-world experience and inspiration. In this past month, I’ve already come to another realization: People my age are needed in the non-college world today. We have so much insight into the changes that are being made in society, but all of our talent, knowledge, and potential is being put into schoolwork that will stay within the college bubble. This of course is a generalization, I know that there are college students engaged in important research, internships, etc. But imagine for a second that upon graduation from high school, all students had time off (call it a gap year if you want), to become involved in their communities, travel, invent, create, and become inspired. If they chose to enter a traditional institution of higher education, they would be so much more prepared and energized and experienced to get the most out of their college experience. So many times I have sat with college friends, pondering these questions. It seems that the system is broken, and its time to stop waiting around for the older generation to come to conclusions for us. So I hope that I can add my own voice to this new movement to transform “higher education” by working on this blog and a linked project that I will explain more in my next post!

 

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