This was an article that I wrote during my senior year of college, and it was published on the Babson Free Press website. I have made minor edits and added a few more anecdote on this piece than the original. I am sharing this on my blog because I haven’t finished writing any new entries yet. I figured this Fourth of July weekend would be a good opportunity to finish writing any new post. It’s unbelievably hard to find the time to write new materials and I don’t know how other bloggers do it.
Anyways, this article means a lot to me, mainly because I get to share my personal story and reflect on my college experience. This is by far the most personal piece of work that I published and I’m very proud of this. Looking back on my college experience, I’m grateful for not just the lessons in the classroom but the life lessons I gained as well (comment inspired by Lashonda’s Blog). I hope when people read this, they can reminisce about their college experience and any important lessons they learned along the way. Please take the time to read this and let me know what you think.
What is the Value of Your College Experience?
The common consensus is that education is the path to financial success; you hear it in movies and see it in commercials. The message is simple, “stay in school.” The conventional view of a college education is that if you go through the process you are less likely to be headed down the wrong path, and the reward is a well paid position with a fancy title.
Is there more to higher education than obtaining a job and eventually making tons of money? Yes, because what the conventional view fails to take into consideration is that education is empowering and can be rewarding in a non-monetary way.
Growing up in a traditional Chinese household, I was always lectured about the importance of doing well in school. Ever since I was a kid I was taught about the conventional view of college, and dreamed of one day being a big shot businessman. To reach that dream, getting into a good college was the first step.
During the college selection process I chose schools based on rank and the average starting salary post graduation. At the time, I only saw financial benefits in obtaining a college degree. The numbers don’t lie either, and according to Liz Pulliam Weston, Is Your Degree Worth $1 Million or Worthless, the average holder of a bachelor degree earns about $51,000 a year. Also during this period in my life, I was working at a restaurant busing tables and never making more than $13 an hour. I was being bossed around by waitresses and managers with four year liberal arts degrees, and it was painfully obvious to choose a business school with a high starting salary post graduation. Otherwise I could end up in that restaurant for the rest of my life, and that was the last thing I wanted for myself.
I was fortunate enough to be accepted into Babson College, one of the best business schools in the nation, and thought I was one step closer to being a big shot businessman. Even though I enjoyed the subject of history in high school and did well in the classes, I could never pursue this in college because that’s not where the money is. When I got accepted into Babson, and didn’t get any financial aid, my mom decided to pay for everything from the savings of her retirement account. She made a big investment in me and it would have been too selfish to not consider what she wants from my education.
After years of taking classes I didn’t enjoy, I was getting bad grades and unhappy with everything. I was unhappy because in the back of my mind I always thought about the huge sacrifice my mom has made, and how I was disappointing her with my mediocre grades. Not to mention the fact I was hurting my chances of landing a good job for the future. Eventually I come to realize that people go to college for the experience, to pursue their passions, or discover new ones. Those who graduate are supposed to leave with a better understanding of themselves and those around them, and have the skills that can make a positive contribution in the workforce.
Mei Zhen Lee, junior at Babson says, “I always knew I’m passionate about math and want to learn more at Babson. I noticed friends who are choosing their concentration based on money. A lot of people have switched into accounting, because it pays well and they are likely to find a job after graduation. I just see something wrong with that.”
It disheartens me to think that people are only learning for a better pay check, because education is liberating. You have the power to choose what you want to learn and develop the ability to think for yourself. This is powerful, because having thoughts, beliefs, and opinions makes you an individual. One person that realized this truth is Frederick Douglass.
Douglass, a famous abolitionist, once said: “Education is power.” He further stated that, “To educate a man is to unfit him to be a slave.” Douglass was born into slavery in 1818; this was an era where it was against the law to educate slaves. Denying education was a way for slave owners to keep control of their property, and any slave caught trying to learn would be killed or severely beaten. Douglass was taught the alphabet by a mistress of his owner, and when his lessons were cut short he took it upon himself to further his learning. Eventually Douglass became an avid reader; and used his knowledge to become an important anti-slavery speaker. His influence was instrumental in ending slavery. Therefore, education’s true power is freedom from oppression.
If everyone attends college for financial reasons, then they are controlled by the pursuit of money. These people deny themselves a golden opportunity to learn and prevent themselves from discovering their true potential. So will you be like the old me and go through the education process by taking countless classes for financial reasons? Or will you be like Douglass and take control of your education, immerse yourself in a wide variety of subjects until you discover your true passion? The choice is yours.