The college experience is so much more than academics, graduation, and careers. The focus on the outcome and not the journey actually obscures the subtle but very real benefits of college life. The lifelong friendships, the abysmal failures and accomplishments that exceed the imagination are all part of the fabric of college life. The passion developed for the college teams or politics or art or music or whatever are also threads that bind together college life. In addition, yes, even the parties, the late night extravaganzas, the spring break road trips, and the enumerable (and often unspeakable) escapades are part of the whole cloth that forms college life.
Writers more eloquent than I have conveyed the experiences and memories about the benefits of the college experience. I would note that college administrators in their ongoing efforts to enhance student retention have tapped into the phenomena that 1st year students that engage in campus life and embrace the college experience have a 10% higher rate of returning the next year. This ‘direct’ involvement took the form of student organizations, fraternities or sororities, intramural sports, or other no academic engagement. It seems that being part of community, even on campus has benefits.
However, there is more to college life than community. The current term is exposure to diversity. Moreover, most often that diversity is not just ethnicity or culture but a broader disparity in worldviews. Of course, different backgrounds are inherent in many college settings. In addition, students are exploring and learning different perspectives. They may for a time adapt or adopt a perspective different from their background. Interestingly, they may find it wanting and return to their original base view and with a deeper appreciation for its nuances and subtlety.
However, they may not. All these adaptations and adoptions can lead to conflict. Some of the conflict is just the pure joy of arguing and debating. Freedom of expression can lead to some playing devil’s advocate just for practice. Others can learn that debate leads to learning. These students may push their fellow students not out of spite or rancor but more to enhance their own understanding. Inevitably, these discussions can lead to discomfort and even pain. It is a challenging time for students. However, it is also a growth period. So again, this college life and experience grows the student.
It comes to my mind that the previous blog focused upon the financial rewards and monetary returns of the college education. The calculations of the previous blog are daunting. In fact, some conclusions indicate there is a strong argument against the pursuit of a college education. This post however focuses on the unmeasurable benefits. What is the dollar value of learning tolerance? How do we quantify the benefits to society of cohorts of college graduates that lived and grasped that different viewpoints are actually good? How to value hat tolerance and exposure to alternate views can help reinforce as well as deepen our own convictions? This valuation challenge seems to be the conundrum of the college experience. College is expensive in both time and money. All that have the college experience inherently know these benefits. However, the dollar value we cannot fully explain to others. College is just invaluable just because it is.