I’m writing this, still on a cloud nine. I was interviewed by the alumni magazine of my Alma Mater – Quinnipiac University. Yes, that small school in Connecticut, with the hard-to-pronounce name. That’s where I had my magical, transformational college experience. And of all the places I’ve lived, it’s the place I still consider home.
Being interviewed by “Quinnipiac Magazine” has definitely been a highlight in my short tenure as an author. I’ll share details and information on where you can find the write up as soon as it’s available. (The premise of the article is the importance of college) But, I wanted to give you a sneak peak of what you will find is the article, and share my full (and unabridged) response to one of the questions that was posed to me during the interview. A response I’m hoping will shed some light on the age-old question what is college really about?
Here is the question I was asked: Getting a job/having an income seems immediately important to the student and their parents. What is also important to keep in mind?
And here is my response – which is based on three factors: Research from employers’ feedback of the skills they seek in recent-college grads; the interviews I conducted for “A Matter of Semantics”; and my experience working with high school and college students. I will warn you. Brace yourself, the purpose of college may not actually be what you think.
College is not just about the academics. Of course the academics are the essence, or backbone, of the college experience. But there is far more to college than studying, going to the library, and taking exams. After students have returned from classes, and completed all of their projects and assignments, and spent a million hours reading, writing papers, doing research, re-organizing their notes, contacting professors, making study cards, and reviewing PowerPoint slides, they will still have an inordinate amount of free time leftover in the day. Parents may preach that students should go back and study longer, read more, and devote all of their free time to enriching your academic selves. But, to do so would be impossible, or at least, unimaginable. (To spend every waking moment focused solely on academics would leave students like that one kid in high school that was extremely book smart, but was socially awkward to the point that he couldn’t even hold a conversation, without stuttering, twitching nervously, and breaking out in a sweat.) Hold onto your seats, parents — college is not just about the academics.
So, why is college about? College is about each student, and the unique path they create, to help them get where they want to be in life. College is about finding purpose and creating success (however students define success).
But, specifically, college is about developing the social, emotional, and psychological self. Not in the I want to find myself sort of way. But, in the sense of exploring life’s philosophies – such as who am I versus who does everyone else expect me to be – so students develop their own outlook on life. College is about creating a social network – of friends who will go on to become colleagues and professors who will go on to become mentors; both of which are crucial to succeeding in the working world. College is about giving students the platform to develop their brand. (When people think of branding, they usually think of Bills Gates or Oprah Winfrey. But each of us had a brand. We might call is style or swagger, but it’s the thing about us that says, who we are, and who we are not) Academics helps students determine what type of career path they will take. But the outside of the classroom experiences help students to solidify what type of professional they will be once they land their first job. That is what college is about.
But, parents should consider others factors of the college experience, as to how college can help students grow and mature and become more competent professionals. For, college is also about students enhancing their skills and abilities; having once in a lifetime opportunities (like studying in other countries); applying concepts learned inside of the classroom and bringing those concepts to life outside of the classroom (like the psychology major who does social experiments with friends, to test theories she’s learning about); and even taking risks – not in terms of jumping off a roof, but in terms of exploring a class they never thought they would or going ziplining when they are scared of heights (as part of leadership training, for instance). College is about students experimenting with their sexuality, when they are still trying to define their own sexual orientation; or even asking someone out on a date, someone who’s of a different race or nationality, not know how they will response or what they will say.
Not only that, but college is about gaining and acquiring skills that you can’t physically touch, but you can sure quantify on your resume; skills and abilities such as developing a work ethic, managing time, and becoming culturally competent. More than anything, college is about the experiences students learn that will help mold and shape them into becoming a better brother or sister, son or daughter, teammate and colleague, teacher or engineer, student and pupil, colleague, coworker, and ultimate, manager, sportsman or sportswoman, friend and significant other; experiences that will make students better versions of themselves than they are at this very moment; experiences that will go on to become life lessons.
Most of these experiences will occur outside of the classroom, yet, they will not be mere ancillary benefits of the college experience. They will have real substance and value – the research tells us that between 70 and 80% of what you college students learn takes place outside of the classroom. Even though academic and career development will be students’ primary reasons for going to go to college, it is their social, emotional, and psychological development that will be the areas that have the greatest impact during your college experience.
So go ahead to college for the academics; but don’t be surprised if you learn a lot more outside of the classroom, than you do inside those walls.