by Richard L. Weaver II, Ph.D.
I did not know all of what I am about to write in this essay when I graduated from high school and entered college. This essay has me looking in the rear-view mirror and reflecting on what I discovered from my own experiences of going to college.
Just writing what I have in the first paragraph above reveals one of the most important reasons for going to college. When I graduated from high school I was young, inexperienced, unsophisticated, unworldly, and juvenile—immature, to say the least! I desperately needed college as an opportunity to grow up. I did well in high school, but it wasn’t difficult for me and not much of a challenge; thus, I never had to take school (up to that point) seriously. Actually, I never really had to think about it at all. I studied, did the work, completed the assignments, obeyed my teachers, learned what I needed to learn, and thoroughly enjoyed it. I was never rebellious, defiant, or disobedient.
When I examine why I went to college, then, everything hinges on that all-important aspect: maturity. As-a-matter-of-fact, everything not only "hinges" on my maturity, but it is totally dependent on it: The process of maturing created what I derived from college. It caused it to happen and happen, too, in a supportive, constructive, intelligent, knowledge-based environment.
Those who go to college to increase their earning potential are correct in making this choice. The statistics prove it. Unfortunately, for some of those with this as their solitary goal, their focus on the diploma tends to outweigh everything else, and they miss many of the other great things a college education can supply. Those are the things I discovered; the financial benefits of a college education never affected me. Yes, of course, I wanted to become employed, and I desired a secure future; however, I don’t ever remember having that as one of my primary goals. Thus, I did not seek college-level training and skills development in order to pursue a career or employment opportunity—as some students, obviously, do.
When I began college I was a pre-medicine major following a pre-med curriculum. I pursued this academic track from ninth grade when I investigated being a doctor as a social-studies class project. I never thought much about it nor investigated other options.
Being immature, I can safely say—in retrospect, of course—that I pursued a college education to gain further self-confidence. Operating independently (I held a job throughout college and had my own transportation, even though I lived at home), securing an adviser, making course decisions, completing course requirements, obeying the rules, attending all classes and lectures, and studying by myself (often buried in the stacks of the graduate library where I worked), not only enhanced my self-confidence, but even more important, further convinced me that I was in charge of my life. My decisions not only made a difference, but they brought positive results.
Along with gaining self-confidence, and closely tied to it, I wanted to continue my education. I knew, from my high-school experiences, that I was not finished, that there was so much more, and that, with an open mind, I could acquire a wonderful education. For those who have no interest in learning, college is a waste of time and money. Getting a high-quality education was a top priority, and I definitely got my money’s worth. It was Leo Rosten who said,
"Happiness comes only when we push our brains and hearts to the farthest reaches of which we are capable."
What people who have not gone to college don’t know is that by going to college, it makes you a more well-rounded person. That is precisely one of the benefits of more education. With the knowledge you gain combined with your improved communication skills, you are exposed to a whole new world. And it is a world well worth discovering.
You might wonder how that happens? How do you become a more well-rounded person? Surrounding yourself with educated people and participating in discussion and debate expands your mind and makes you more aware of the world around you. Once you become aware of others and their various paths in life, you will be more likely to serve your community and affect change in whatever field you choose to follow. Sometimes, as in my case, this happens slowly, imperceptively—surreptitiously. It invades the system and embeds itself in your DNA!
Another thing I learned along the way, is that life is so much more than a job. I worked at a variety of jobs since I was 14 years old. But, clearly, I had not found my passion. I thought it was pre-medicine—becoming a doctor, but college changed that. Although my goal was not to find my passion, college seemed to thrust my passion on me! I recommend all college-bound students to take courses that interest you and explore all the options available within the college environment. My passion, as it turned out, occurred within the speech-communication discipline, and once found, I discovered it was much easier to follow the right career path and find fulfillment. It was not instantaneous; it took place because of a course outside my career track.
Who would have guessed that I would go on and write a successful college textbook----Communicating Effectively 10e (McGraw-Hill, 2012)—based on a passion uncovered as a college undergraduate? Not only is life full of surprises, it is full of ironies and coincidences, too. You can easily see how, for me, college was not just a means to an end, it was a life-changing experience.
There is no doubt that you get out of college what you put into it. But that is true of all education. In college, I stretched myself beyond what was easy and comfortable, and it was, ultimately, college that helped me realize my full potential. College allowed me the opportunity to get off the beaten path—the course of study I thought was my destiny---and head out on the road less traveled.—a new and very uncertain future. As I challenged those boundaries, I learned more about myself and I grew as a person.
Now, if I look at the life that my college degrees afforded me (I went on for an M.A. and a Ph.D.), I have to say that it was my college experiences that allowed me to achieve a higher quality of life—a better lifestyle—for myself and my family. It has allowed all members of my family to live healthier lives with strong value systems. It made me a better parent and leader for my family. It allowed our families to follow the American dream. We received a great return on the investment—the money I invested in going to college came back in multiples throughout my life. There are many reasons for going to college, to be sure, and these are my answers to the question, "Why go to college?"
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At GetDegrees, the essay "Why Go to College? 40 Reasons to Go to College" supports many of the reasons in the essay above and adds many more.
At MetroNorth, the essay "Reasons for Going to College," is another good one that offers a number of additional ideas.
At Forbes.com, there is an essay, "Five Reasons to Skip College" that is worth looking at. The reasons are: 1) You’ll be losing your working years. 2) You won’t necessarily earn less money. 3) In fact, you could probably earn more money if you invested your tuition [as if you would have it in one lump sum available to invest!] 4) You don’t need to be in a classroom in order to learn something. 5) Plenty of other people did fine. (e.g., " Bill Gates, Larry Ellison, Quentin Tarantino, David Geffen, and Thomas Edison, among others, never graduated from college. Peter Jennings and John D. Rockefeller never finished high school.")
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Copyright September, 2013, by And Then Some Publishing LLC