The Intrinsic Value of College Education
While the value of college seems obvious to many, there are some who question the necessity of college. Millennial and Gen Z college graduates face enormous debt and often have equivalent prospects to those with no degree. These days, it’s possible to earn a six-figure income in blue collar work, and many young people are drawn to industries like stock brokerage and real estate that require licenses rather than degrees.
Monetary Value of College
It’s been proven many times that bachelor’s degree holders make much more money on average than high school diploma holders, and that degree holders are far more likely to find consistent employment. The truly priceless part of college, however, is the experience of taking your first steps as an adult.
Escaping the Comfort Zone: College’s Impact on Independence
I spent my freshman year in a dorm building with more than 500 people having the same experience I had. Pretty quickly, I made friends with a large group of guys just like me: we had never bought our own groceries, we had never spent a lot of time unsupervised, and we were almost never responsible for our own safety. We picked up each other’s slack, and we learned pretty fast. Within a month, we were comfortable enough with each other to walk into one of our rooms and tell the owner: “Dude, this place is a mess!”
We held each other accountable. We didn’t do each other’s laundry, but we made sure each person was doing their own. If someone’s beard is a mess, someone shows them how to trim it and “do their lines”. If someone drinks soda with every meal, someone tells him to drink some water.
These kinds of support systems are very common among new college students. Friends help friends. But these systems aren’t very common outside of college, especially in the workforce.
Even if you have roommates when you first move out of your childhood home, they won’t hold you accountable like your fellow college students would. In general, roommates outside college will only intervene if you don’t pay rent, make too much noise, or make a mess of common areas. This is not a healthy environment for a fledgling adult, and it will not encourage healthy habits.
That’s the value of college: four years to develop healthy habits and friendships with people your own age. There’s another lesson you’ll learn pretty fast when it comes to living with roommates: how to set boundaries.
Roommates and Boundaries: Lessons in Coexistence
Mercifully, I only had one roommate in my college dorms. He was a gym rat who gave up on college after one semester; he planned on going to the army instead, so he didn’t bother going to class or waking up earlier than noon. His side of the room smelled like sweat and cologne, he’d take phone calls on speaker while I was in the room, and he’d invite large numbers of people over without asking me, often while I was trying to sleep.
Both semesters were a long quest of setting boundaries with my roommate. This involved quiet times, advance notice when one of us wanted people over, and having my roommate apply his cologne in the community bathroom rather than our bedroom. This experience taught me three lessons,
Your roommate is a business associate, not necessarily your friend. They are a good roommate so long as they respect your boundaries and keep the room clean and comfortable for both/each of you.
In college, it is important to have a secondary location you can go to when you can’t be in your room. I’d recommend having one that’s quiet and one that’s social. My two were the library (or the science building if the library was closed) and my best friend’s room. These places were safe and always available, so I always had an escape from my roommate.
College is best when you don’t spend much time in your room. I visited my room often to change clothes, shower, or take a quick nap between classes, but I never spent free time there. My campus had many common areas that were open 24/7, perfect for studying or just getting out of my room.
These three lessons were critical for my adult life, and have helped me in every roommate arrangement I’ve had since.
Outside of academics, college is also an amazing opportunity to travel on the cheap. Most colleges have programs for studying abroad, letting you live and study in another country for a semester or more. Studying abroad means immersing yourself in another culture and learning about new ways of life outside of America, all for a fraction of what it would cost outside of college.
Studying abroad also means more independence. Living at college is one thing, but studying abroad entails being out of the country with almost nobody you know. You will have the university in the other country to look out for you academically, but you’re socially on your own. It’s an intimidating experience, but it’s amazing, and months-long vacations become harder to justify once you join the workforce. Unless you find an online job and become a digital nomad, college may be your only chance to live abroad without moving to another country entirely.
Yes, college will teach you how to pursue a career, and college grads make more money on average than high school grads. But the true value of college is the opportunity for growth into adulthood. I never learned to do my own laundry at home, but only at college could I find an impromptu fraternity of guys my age to hold me to a grooming standard.
The true value of college is growing up safely in a hurry.
Author: Hastings Davin