“Only one more semester.” “C’s get degrees.” “It’s a take-home test so I can just google the answers.”
There’s more. And we’ve all said them.
School is tough, obviously. We don’t fork over thousands of dollars a year for a cake walk. There is much cheaper cake out there. Everyone enrolls in college for different reasons, but from what I have seen, an overwhelming factor has been because, well, “that’s what you do.”
If you, like me, attended four years of public high school, you were probably also pumped full of the guidance counselor’s speech on how college is the next step after high school. You listened to teachers’ advice and direction on which colleges were best for you. And for a lot of reasons, this is true: students after high school should look into refining their skills for the field they wish to enter.
University is a place to be trained for what you want to do in the world; and if that be something that requires higher education, by all means, please apply. And since it seems likely most of you have done so and now attend Vanguard University, let’s consider how we should engage now that we are here.
Now, we students muddle through an average four years of school to come out on the other side with a piece of paper and, often it seems, nothing else.
We meander through our core curriculum, meticulously calculate our required major courses, and slave through our upper divisions. And though we dedicate a fair amount of time, money, and resources to these classes, we still seem to utter phrases such as the following:
“I learned nothing in that class!”
“It’s just for core curriculum.”
“That class was an easy A. I didn’t even do the work.”
“I don’t get why I have to take general ed’s that have nothing to do with what my major is!”
Well, let’s start with the concept of general education courses. It’s true: a Communication major could very likely never use knowledge gleaned from Old Testament Survey or my Anthropology classes. But other things are happening there besides learning about Israel’s patriarchs or doing a research paper on another ethnic group. When you sit through these courses, you are for one, learning something you did not know about the world before, or maybe just learning how to learn better, or perhaps learning how to be attentive and intentional with subject matter that does not particularly interest you.
Because, believe it or not, I have a feeling our future careers will sometimes require our dedication in areas that we don’t exactly find enthralling.
You are paying for this education, so even if you don’t immediately see face value for each individual class, it would probably do you well to find it. Core classes not only give you the opportunity to learn, but give you the opportunity to learn how to learn well.
Similarly, it feels like a lot of students are more concerned with just getting through college (because that’s what we have got to do, right?) rather than learning in college. I’m sure we have all had that moment of panic where you wonder if you’ll get hired after you graduate. “Is a degree enough?” “Is this degree enough?” “Did I gain anything from this degree?” We mull over these questions in a quiet, or sometimes less than quiet, panic.
Well, time spent in a course can’t just be muddling through on your phone, or just trying to get the C, or even just trying to get to the end of the semester so you can finally have a break. It has got to be time spent absorbing the information presented to us.
We do stress; we are strained; and goodness, do we ever need a break. But to stagger through a semester of courses without learning anything and ending up on the other end with a decent GPA is not going to do any of us any favors. We need to invest, to receive, and to grow.
I suppose the best way to capture all this is the way our graduation ceremony will play out. It is not going to be about those meticulously calculated units, or those long sessions struggling along with our academic advisers, no. Our professors and faculty will recommend us for graduation from this university because of each moment we spent learning in each course we took. Sure, maybe they calculate it through 124 units and a point system, but the spirit of the university is so derivative of that.
We don’t all have to get degrees, but we do all have to know what one is worth. It is our time spent, our lessons learned, and our skills developed through the investment in our schooling.
We are here, each moment, to gain knowledge and skills what happens on the other side. We are here to take what we can in order to better the fields we will enter. We are here to get an education that will shape us and shape the world.
There’s a degree at the end of the tunnel, but there is opportunity right here where we are at.