By Jean Fan
This piece is a response to "Why The College Campus Experience Still Matters." Thanks to Gregoris Kalai for pointing it out.
A recent LinkedIn article touted the importance of higher education, characterizing it as a "transformative" experience that "turns adolescents into young adults," highlighting the impact of the college social life on young people. In this respect, it's right: people often describe their time at university as one of intense personal development. Unfortunately, the notion that maturing, networking, or learning has to be done at school is just wrong.
Here are three reasons going to college primarily for the social experience is a cop-out:
1. You're paying tuition for classes, not the "College Experience," which schools don't actually have a monopoly on.
One commenter, Michael K., sums it up nicely:
"Come on, people. When colleges talk about the "College Experience" and networking and maturing, they're really just declaring that the actual course work is overpriced. Instead of discussing the content of their product, they talk about the feel of the environment. This is no different than Coors spending millions of dollars talking about their label, but never mentioning the flavor of their beer. Let's boil this down: a person can join professional organizations to network in their specific career field and find mentors. They can do internships for experiential learning. They can do all of these non-academic things without having to pay 20k a year."
2. Cultivating your own community, as opposed to purchasing one, is a far more maturing experience.
If you're paying thousands of dollars to go to college just to "meet people," you're essentially saying that you don't have the ability to make friends yourself. At college, you get a community handed to you on a silver plate. If you opt out of the system, you have to go out and build your own. Not only does this expose you to a wider variety of people, it forces you to develop your social skills more organically — you have to get comfortable approaching people in different situations, from all walks of life.
Developing this ability to go out and naturally make friends is a skill that you'll carry with you for the rest of your life. So many adults have subpar social lives in part because they relied so heavily on the college experience to make friends. Sadly, they never learned how to meet people outside of school.
3. By limiting your social network to your college community, you can't tap into the diverse perspectives of people who aren't a) your age or b) your professor.
Although your peers and professors are great people to meet, they're far from the only people out there. Just because you're in college, it doesn’t mean that you have to confine yourself to the college bubble.
Actively participate in outside activities. Challenge yourself to have conversations with people who are nothing like you. By doing so, you expose yourself to different ideas, perspectives, and ways of having fun. This helps you create an identity that is unique to yourself.
There are so many opportunities to meet diverse and interesting people, without the steep entrance fee of university. If you're in college, a good social scene can be a legitimate reason for staying — it just shouldn't be your only one.