Attend college for you, not the school

When+asking+whether+one+should+go+to+college+or+not%2C+they+should+consider+who+they+are+making+the+decision+for.+Credit%3A+Lucy+Knowles%2FThe+Foothill+Dragon+Press

When asking whether one should go to college or not, they should consider who they are making the decision for. Credit: Lucy Knowles/The Foothill Dragon Press

Sean Anthony

When asking whether one should go to college or not, they should consider who they are making the decision for. Credit: Lucy Knowles/The Foothill Dragon Press
When asking whether one should go to college or not, they should consider who they are making the decision for. Credit: Lucy Knowles/The Foothill Dragon Press

“Excuse me, young sir.  How would you like to pay $40,000 a year for four years, spiral into debt for the subsequent 15 years of your life, leave your home, and get a beautiful piece of paper for it?”

“Gee, Mr.—I sure would.”

Okay, it’s a lot better than that, but it can feel like this if you enter college for the wrong reasons.

Think of the “best” college you can imagine, one you could never dream of being “smart enough” to get into.  The list quickly and universally develops in one’s head: Harvard, Yale, Stanford, Berkeley, UCLA, you name it.

While these schools may really be the best in the nation, there is a very crucial word frequently overlooked that goes along with that title: graduate.

These schools are some of the best graduate universities, that is they have some of the best graduate programs and cutting-edge research.  The rest of the students, however, the undergraduate majority, are simply the high school elite who swim around unaware of the fact they are essentially over-glorified donors.

Over five hundred student lecture halls, teacher assistants rampant, professors nowhere to be seen, and overwhelmed students everywhere.  Such is the central dogma of large public research universities.

As an undergraduate, being in such a setting is like being mugged and dropped into the ocean.

You pay anywhere from $30-60,000 a year without any financial aid because the schools know they don’t have to give you any to sit in a class with innumerable faces, listen to an ant-sized TA or professor (if you’re lucky) give a lecture on something while they’re thinking only about their current research project.

Publish or perish.

Professors use the money schools earn from tuition not to focus on teaching but to spend their time writing papers in prestigious academic journals and writing grants to get their employer (the school) more money. And if they don’t, the university will find some other eager young mind to do so.  It’s politics.

These schools aren’t institutions of higher learning, they’re businesses.

And that’s the most corrupt part: the undergraduates are paying immense sums of money for their professors to neglect them, only so they can get a second-rate, un-personalized education, feel lost amongst the masses, and have the bragging rights of saying they attended Yale at their high school reunion.

Of course there are plenty of benefits to large research schools too, even as an undergraduate.

Diversity is widespread, ideas are ubiquitous, and brilliant minds are lecturing and inspiring.  There’s always something to do, new people to meet, places to go, parties to pontificate at, etc.

And even if most professors are preoccupied with research and publishing, there are still awesome, dynamic teachers who may even let you in on their research if you get to know them well enough.

Some people simply thrive off of that social stimulation of being in such a large and exciting school.

But the main point here is that you shouldn’t just join a school because of its name.

There are so many factors to take into account when you’re searching for the right university and, the truth is, most of them will be great experiences. Nevertheless, it’s crucial to visit a school before you make a decision and to know what kind of experience you’re looking for.

If you’re searching for a “real” college experience with large class sizes, professors who focus on research, Greek life, and getting a big name on your diploma so as to earn a high-ranking job later on in life, then hey, maybe the UC schools, the Ivy League and other large research universities, public or private, are a good fit for you.

Still, I can’t help but think that many students don’t know exactly what they want their major to be or what kind of environment they want to immerse themselves in and so they fall back on a school that they know sounds good, or that their parents went to, etc.

Foothill often attracts students similarly; students who don’t necessarily want to go to Foothill but whose parents want them to.

Don’t fall for the advertisements or the big names and become a donor to professor research if you don’t feel you belong.  Do your own research, visit schools, become an expert.

There are countless schools out there, ranging from very tiny to moderate sized to gigantic.  Before you commit to a UC, check out a small liberal arts institution and a medium sized public school.

The bottom line is you shouldn’t be afraid to attend a school because it may not have that nice ring to it, or because your parents think it’s not good enough, or because you’re afraid you won’t get into graduate school.

Above all, what people draw the most from their time in college isn’t necessarily all of the information they absorb, or even the great job that they were shooting for (we’ve all heard reports of college graduates at Starbucks).

What people take away from college the most is the experience of being an adult, being independent for the first time, and the excitement of being opened to a world of brilliant ideas and interesting people.

Go for the whole experience, the one that suits you.

Or else don’t go at all.

What do you think?