New School

There is so much I could say in response to this daily prompt.

You get to redesign school as we know it from the ground up. Will you do away with reading, writing, and arithmetic? What skills and knowledge will your school focus on imparting to young minds?

First off, I would definitely not do away with reading, writing, and ‘rithmetic because we need them more than ever. But instead of just reading a story and having to memorize useless details to regurgitate on a standardized test, it would be far more beneficial for students to read nonfiction and learn to critically analyze what they read.

Getting a certain number of volunteer or community service hours needs to be mandatory for schools. I know that some school systems have already implemented this, but when I was in school, it was not a requirement.

I’ve ranted about this a few times before, but I won’t stop until it becomes reality: Schools and universities really need to teach kids about real-world stuff. Like how to cook meals that aren’t “pop it in the microwave for 10 seconds,” rent an apartment, buy and maintain a car, buy and maintain a house, understand insurance, have healthy relationships, and so on and so on. Yes, I know these things are supposed to be taught by parents, but it’s way too often that parents drop the ball or can’t be bothered.

High schools need to teach students that college is not the only path to success. College is not mandatory, and some kids will not succeed in college simply because it is not the right choice for them or they don’t have the right temperament for it. Also, grade inflation in high school and college needs to stop. If the student does excellent work, he gets an A. If he does poor work, he gets a D. End of story. When I was in college, students used to bug professors to try and get them to drop the lowest test score or shorten the page count of a term paper to 5 instead of 10, and the sad thing was that sometimes the professors would give in. College is supposed to teach you about the real world, and in real life, you don’t get your way by whining or slacking off.

Community College: Erasing the Stigma

The economy these days is atrocious and it’s even worse for new college students. The cost to attend a four-year university has gone through the roof, and it’s dangerous to take out student loans because the falling salaries of entry-level jobs will slow down the rate at which these loans are paid off.

I highly recommend community colleges. Many more students are seeing them as viable options these days. They definitely don’t have a lot of the stigma they used to have. Here are some reasons why I recommend attending a community college for the first two years of your undergraduate education:

1. Less expensive. Compare the cost of universities in your area to the cost of nearby community colleges. There’s an enormous difference – and a Pell grant will often pay off the entire cost of a two-year degree.

2. An easier transition. Moving straight on to a four-year college after high school can be a lot to adjust to – and grades are often shoved off to the wayside by the urge to join clubs, have fun, party, make new friends, and other aspects of student life. Community college will give you a slower and easier transition with less distraction from what’s most important: learning and making the grade.

3. Attention. Although brand-name universities brag about the extent of “individualized attention” from professors, they’ve fallen short in my experience. I got much more one-on-one attention from professors at community college. Even though not all of them had doctorate degrees, they were just as knowledgeable, intelligent, and willing to help. Do not think that because community college is relatively inexpensive, you’ll be getting lower-caliber professors.

4. Quality education. Classes at community college are not necessarily less rigorous than they are at a four-year school. A lot depends on how much you’re willing to put into your education, no matter where you go. If you’re not going to put in the effort, college will be a lot harder, whether you’re at a four-year or a two-year school. It is what you make it. You’re in charge of your education.

5. A practical choice. Employers no longer look at your resume, see community college, and think, “Oh, so you weren’t good enough (or smart enough) to get into a four-year school.” On the contrary, they’ll see you as a practical person who was willing to save money and build a network there as well as at your four-year school.

As with many things in life, how well you do at community college depends on your attitude. You get out what you put into it. If you go into community college thinking that it’s going to be high school 2.0, then you’ll have a bit of a problem. Go into community college with your eye on the goal of getting into a four-year school with good grades and extracurriculars under your belt. Don’t go in there thinking, “I’m only going here because I wasn’t good enough (or rich enough) to get into a four-year school.” Keep your eyes on the prize – and remember that if you stay on track and transfer, you’ll have the same four-year degree as someone who spent all four years at university.

College vs. “The Real World”

Around this time last year, I was finishing my senior year of college.

My mentality at the time was this: I’m tired of writing papers. I know all this is going to be essentially meaningless in the real world. My employer is not going to grade me on the ten-point scale. I don’t want to go to grad school and write more papers. If I must go to grad school, I can go later in life or online. I don’t want to postpone life in the real world by hiding in some other university, which is precisely the opposite of the real world. My chosen career path does not require me to have a master’s. Why bother?

After I graduated, I looked for work. That job search taught me more about the “real world” in six months than college had taught me in four years.

During my time in college, I was absolutely obsessed with it. School was my life and, like the dork I am, I loved it, up until I realized that it wasn’t really preparing me for “the real world.”

I don’t regret not going to grad school. I don’t regret entering the “real world” and going to work one bit, but I miss school so much it’s almost painful. My brother is three years younger than me, and he’s ready to transfer from community college to university. Quite frankly, I’m jealous of him. I want to take that journey again. Going to university was one of the best decisions I ever made and it taught me so much.

College was a completely different kind of learning experience than what I experienced job searching and living in the “real world.” I think going to college taught me how to learn. It didn’t necessarily teach me how to get along in the real world, but it taught me how to learn to get along in the real world.

So how about you? Are you in school? Are you out of school and do you miss it? 🙂