"The College Experience"

7:14 PM

If you're homeschooled, you know the mantra: "The college experience is overrated." You might have heard something like that from me, even. The voice of rationality has spoken, and it has come down hard on college and its experience -- however defined. Four years of this experience cannot justify millions of green paper things. This experience cannot justify four years of wasted youth, youth better spent elsewhere advancing the kingdom through...advancing the kingdom somehow.

Yes, if you're homeschooled, you know the mantra. You know how the game goes. And you might be wondering, "Well, is it? Is the college experience overrated?"

My answer? No. Not a bit.

(Whether you personally ought to take the plunge into college is another matter entirely and one I'm not capable of commenting on for every individual.)

Let me qualify this statement: it depends. Of course it does; everything "depends" nowadays. Regardless of social trends, it does depends. If the college in question doesn't have a strong community of serious academics, both professor and undergraduate, or if it possesses said community pointed strongly in the opposite direction one wishes to go, then, well, that college experience might be overrated. Not all colleges are built the same.

If, however, we're talking about a serious community of learners that attracts all types while still roughly aiming one in the right direction -- that is gold. That is something one can rarely find elsewhere. And if one happens to be a person who crave this kind of community, this kind of higher education, then time spent there is no waste at all.

College has a way of putting faces and friendships on political issues and philosophical strains and theological beliefs that formerly showed up in books and the internet, to be ridiculed or dismissed from a distance. Now they have names and become attached to you in some way over lunch or a shared class period. You can't ignore them and you can't ridicule them. You learn to learn from them and refute them politely and resolutely -- or join their side, if they turn out right. It's a great remedy for know-it-all homeschoolers (nobody wants to play with you if you're grumpy and unreasonable). It also knocks out the idea that everyone who does not walk in lockstep with you is out for your head. Not only do you end up chatting in the hallway with someone of radically different opinion than you, but you also end up admitting you like them and there are things in common you never considered before.

For instance, the church situation around my school is surprisingly diverse for a tiny town but still doesn't house every denomination and sub-denomination and non-denomination. People end up attending churches that appeal to their "flavor" more than to their exact denomination. I worship next to Presbyterians and Pentecostals. We find out that rarely is there one person who perfectly embodies his denomination of choice. Individuals are too diverse to be encompassed by just one denomination. We try to peg people and end up saying, "Forget that -- we agree on the essentials, and that makes us brothers."

That's not to say that college bundles everybody together under the banner of Kumbaya. Since it smooths over minor differences, the big differences become the center of attention. College provides the perfect place for all sorts of ideas to interact with each other. Some ideas fit, and some ideas run away or clash altogether. For those inclined to shrug shoulders and keep quiet over big beliefs, college remedies this problem.

What I love about college is that it brings together so many different people around the commonality of a curriculum and basic ideas. Back home, I'd say "supralapsarianism" and get stares. Now I say it and it starts a brawl in the student union. A good-natured brawl, with the Calvinists ganging up on the Arminians. (Thankfully I know a couple pre-med students who hang around.) This is what we're here for -- not brawling, of course, but knowing these sorts of big words and fancy ideas. We don't all agree, so through everybody's opinion, we can see all sides of an idea and decide whether it's true or not.  If our friends can't answer our deepest questions, we trek upstairs to our professors' offices. If our professors can't answer our questions, we go to our friends and hash it out. The presence of many precocious people prevents permanent problems.

And what's great about college is that we don't have to take time out of a normal life of chores and jobs to drive and meet together: we're already there. A single text brings a whole crowd of eager thinkers and learners to one place within minutes -- no sweat necessary. This allows the niggles of genius to get hashed out while they're still fresh, instead of waiting until Sunday to talk to the pastor or until Daddy gets home or something like that. Resources -- whether people or hardback copies -- lie right there.

I've said little about classes and classrooms. They play a part in the college experience -- I know I'm a different person because I took Western Heritage and read Homer and bled out essays for both. However, those are supplementary to the act of bringing together many, many people into one place -- living together, working together. It's like homeschooling: we love it because it teaches us life as well as academics. College forges another family: you work together, play together, eat together, study together, serve together, worship together. It opens up far more opportunities for life-changing friendships and conversations.

That's the college experience. If you want it and can get it, do so. You will not regret it.

You Might Also Like

4 impressions

  1. Now, that was a lovely post! I'm so glad that college has been everything you hoped it would, and that it's feeding your brilliant mind with just what you needed!

    I would chime in and caution that your experiences are probably somewhat better than normal because you go to a small private college that was founded on the kind of ideals that you, happily, still observe there. I go to a state university, and most of my classmates here just want to get done with college and get working (and party/drink a lot while they're here). I know there are students and professors here who thirst for knowledge, but most of them are working on discoveries in technology and science, which are more focused on working together rather than talking together. And the vast majority of students that I encounter are not included in that knowledge-hungry group (I have never, in all my years of college, observed a flash-mob of people gathering to discuss supralapsarianism, or anything else unrelated to homework, for that matter!).

    I'm really not trying to be a wet-blanket, though, because so much of what you said about college is totally true - college does challenge you to put faces to the viewpoints different from yours and realize that the people of these beliefs are just people, like you, not strange uncivilized beings. It's exciting to be able to like and be friends with people who are radically different from you.

    It's also very exciting to sit in my major classes with other men and women who have the same professional goals as I do, and to know that we'll be graduating together and working as colleagues in our field. And there's little more wonderful than sitting under a passionate professor while he or she lectures on their area of expertise. I wouldn't trade college for the world!

    Long live learning, discovery, and critical thinking!



  3. I enjoyed reading this post and am glad you are enjoying your college experience.

    As one who did not attend college (though I have attended weekly Seminary-level Bible courses taught by an extremely learned and gifted teacher with his Masters in theology. It is through my church, which also serves as a remote-learning-center for an out-of-state seminary) and married young, I would hold to there being many other ways to gain the higher knowledge you desire besides college. Please note that I'm not saying that going to college is wrong, just that there are many other options nowadays to learn a skill, gain knowledge, and have a good community of friends without spending tons of money or, perhaps, being in less protected surroundings (like in a state college as Vicki mentioned). My parents both attended college (though only my dad completed all four years) and both my parents (once they came to faith in Christ), were troubled constantly by the drunken parties, open immorality, and blatent disrespect for God amongst the students. I know that we all must grow up and realize that we live in a sinful world, but we are still, as Christians, supposed to protect our hearts and minds from things that displease God. I'm so glad your college experience has allowed you to do that... I would just say that it isn't always the case (even in some Christian colleges, believe me, I lived right next to a campus once).

    Also as Vicki said, I am not trying to be a wet blanket! :-) I don't believe in being sheltered; I pray God will give me wisdom as I raise my own children someday so that they won't live in a little bubble where the world is perfect and everyone speaks and dresses just like they do. But I DO believe in protection, even as adults.

    Again, thanks for sharing YOUR college experience! May God bless you as you continue to glorify Him through your life.


  4. "The presence of many precocious people prevents permanent problems."

    I see what you did there. ^.^


Hit me with your best thought! I'm very interested in your unique perspective. If you'd like to discuss things in private, feel free to email me! :)