Every single day, without fail, while sitting through my freshman-level classes, I stifle a faint yet persistent urge to drop out of college. Winter break is in sight, but it rests on the other side of a swamp of essays and exams. At this point in the semester, running on stress and caffeine, it's easy to begin to contemplate the value of a college education. Is studying for finals worth my time? Is my statistics class worth six hundred dollars? Why have I committed to spending four more years sitting in a classroom?
In an article for the Huffington Post called "I Learned Nothing in College," Sarah Rose Attman bluntly sums up the attitude of many college students. "As I reflect on my undergraduate experience, I feel that it was a colossal waste of time," she declares. "My memories are a vague blur of hanging out with friends and cramming for exams -- forgetting all the information on my way out the door."
Furthermore, in a viral PragerU video boldly titled, "I Learned More at McDonald's Than at College," Havorford College undergraduate Olivia Legaspi explains that the skills she learned working her part-time job mean more to her than the questionable ideologies taught to her in college.
This gnawing feeling that college is not worth the time or money seems to be universal. And, as I near the end of my first semester, I catch myself agreeing. Reflecting on my college experience so far, I feel that virtually nothing taught in my freshman-level classes is relevant to personal or career success. The most valuable things I've learned in college have all taken place outside of the classroom. I've learned how to travel alone. I've networked with professional artists, musicians, and journalists. I've developed my political stances. I've navigated difficult relationships. I've learned how to live on my own, take care of my health, and manage my finances. All outside of the classroom.
Having said that, I understand how college classes can feel utterly meaningless. But, because my classes will lead to the degree that my dream career requires, college is a necessary evil. All that I can do is make the most of it.
So, to anyone else dissatisfied with their college experience so far, I offer a lesson I've learned in the past few months: You get out what you put in.
You can't count on your classes to provide you with a vast range of skills necessary to achieve personal and professional success. In my case, I need to learn how to write to become a journalist, but I can't count on my English class to publish my work, build my portfolio, and connect me with professionals. And I need to learn about politics, but I can't count on my university to give me a balanced, unbiased education or develop my beliefs for me. Those are things that I have to seek out for myself.
To scrounge up the value from your college experience, maximize your time outside of class. That "in-between" time is a valuable opportunity to pursue activities which will foster growth. Join a professional organization. Find a part-time job or internship. Participate in a club related to your career path. Start building skills and collecting experiences to equip yourself to thrive in the real world.
Yes, college can feel like a monstrous waste of time and money. Yes, universities often teach irrelevant information and questionable ideologies. But if you take control of your own time, you can create a fulfilling college experience. It's absolutely possible to get value out of college -- it just might not be in the classroom.