Why Do I Attend College?

After leaving class disarrayed for the millionth time, I asked myself (for the millionth time), “Why do I attend college?”. Some of these professors are terrible at their job, and most of the time I figure out that the things they teach could be/are learned independently.  If anything, I guess school provides the motivation and structure needed that a lot of us couldn’t muster up with our own independent study. Again, a question arises — is that really a good justification to why we invest so much of our lives into these higher level institutions? When I say investment, I’m not only talking about JUST financials, but the emotional strain it provides and the unrivaled ability to shred apart morale. It’s kind of like the army, or prison with how some of these professors can really fuck with you. The worst part is, a lot of us willingly (and maybe knowingly) participate in this hegemony and have come to see our oppression as a natural thing. Most professors know they can get away with doing a horrible job and take advantage of the fact that a lot of students don’t know how to defend themselves in the face of a seemingly overpowering authority.
Back to the question, do we really NEED school?  Well, even the point made about motivation is kind of weak so let’s bring up an even bigger motivator — jobs. Unfortunately a lot of jobs require a degree — any degree — to do jobs that probably shouldn’t require one. For example, some jobs out there may require something of a communications degree when really all is needed is common sense. Why are college degrees made as qualifications to these positions? Presumptively, as quality control. Having a college degree can show a great degree of motivation to some employers, and the presumed effort is seemingly shown in your struggle. Aren’t some degrees more of a struggle than other’s? Why do some jobs hire employees of these degrees indiscriminately while still turning a blind eye to the qualified unemployed degree holders? I believe this stems from another kind of control which I like to call background control.

Alright, too off topic. Let’s focus on why I go to school. Or better yet, let me finish it up next week in a part 2.

If you trip on a ledge, don’t stumble your way into falling off a cliff

 

When you fall, you don’t always have to start from the beginning. What do I mean by that? Well, I commonly see a lot of people who set goals for themselves, and consistently under perform on what they set out to do. After about the first failure, discouragement creeps in and finally the goals are discarded. Now to decipher what’s wrong with this scenario, let’s consider a real life example.

Bob is addicted to smoking crack

Bob stops smoking crack

Bob joins AAA

Bob gets to a week in sober

Bob smokes again

Bob get’s his one week sobriety chip revoked

Bob starts from Day 1

Bob is angry that all his hard work meant nothing in the end,  decides he can’t stay sober and starts smoking again

Bob tries heroin

Bob never goes to AAA again

END

The thing with Bob is…well I guess it’s that he’s addicted to crack. The example may be extreme, but the point is that he didn’t see his progress as a goal in itself. Instead of taking heed of the strides he made during his journey, he treated his fall as an utter defeat. That’s akin to playing a video game, beating half the bosses, losing, resetting the game to level 1, and claiming you might as well not play anymore.

No! That’s not a good way to treat things! In our lives, we as humans tend to see our incomplete goals as lost causes. The thing is, giving in to this sick game of human psychology, we’re all unconsciously making the conscience decision to restart the game. To never backtrack on good progress seems logical, yet most of us see a fall where a stumble should be. Smokers who relapse after 5 years get punished by a removal of their blue chip, students will usually falter in their study habits with the outcome of one bad test, and an offender of petty theft may think of themselves as a full fledged criminal mastermind with no hope of redemption!

Anyway, all I ask of you the reader is to treat the stumble accordingly and be proud you even got so far as to even have the opportunity of stumbling because that my friend, is an accomplishment in itself.

Sitting in on Classes

I get many questions about why I sit in on classes as opposed to actually taking them. The first reason is to get knowledge just like any other class. Which always raises the real question, “Why don’t you just enroll?”

  1. I don’t have natural mathematical ability to be assessed on how fast I can learn

1a) If I enroll and do bad, it will mess up my GPA which in turn would lower my job prospects and grad school opportunities

1b) if I don’t enroll and don’t understand, I can follow at my own pace and not have to worry about falling behind

Well, most of the classes I sit in on are math classes that I would probably not do well during a normal semester. To be honest, I’m more of a self learner and usually like to learn on my own time from books. With math, it’s different though, somethings I read in higher level math books feel *impossible* for me to understand without a lecturer. My biggest guess as to why I cant seem to parse this type of information from books is that the authors of textbooks of higher math don’t know how to explain the material well enough to newcomers. In fact, I believe a lot of them, in a subconscious way, rely on the fact that their content will probably be taught by a professor. It’s not to say that this is a bad thing, as most mathematicians are expected to undergo some sort of formal education, and to assume that their content will be taught by an expert isn’t too much of a stretch.

Competition

Competition is what’s said to be one of the leading factors in the growth of human development, the drive we have between each other to be the best. This power can take shape in a variety of forms from the extremely beneficial motivator, to the most crushing force of despair. I myself find this force to start manifesting as the ladder, with the mental superiority of my peers slowly starting to wear me down. Every day so much work is put into becoming the best in what I do, but lately it seems as I’ve been busting my balls for naught, as if it’s suddenly become the impossible to even begin to reach any of my peers. To accomplish the impossible, I work as if any false step will keep me from over-reaching. The thing is, whatever I do I always look up and find someone better. “Well there’s always someone better than you” is what you might hear in response, but I’m not talking about someone, I’m talking about a group of people that may forever keep me from breaking into even the top 10 percentile. It starts to seem that regardless of how many hours of math I spend studying or how many things I try to learn about the latest cutting edge technology I’m always behind. Something about these computer science and math students demands the attention to be turned to the great disparity between their skill levels and — well, mine. Deep down I create excuses, explanations for this seemingly unexplainable gap in academic intellect. “Well, they probably had engineering parents they could rely on for extra help early on,” or “They only seem like they’re better because they work harder.” In reality, I know the truth. Some people are just naturally better at things. That’s not to say that environment and work ethic don’t play a role, but I believe inherent skill in one person can easily trump someone else’s hard work. I’ll get into that in another blog post further down the line, but there’s also another truth that seems to surface. A more personal one.

It’s uncomfortable to believe I’m this far behind, and keeping this excuse-based mentality buries the thought that I can in fact also reach my dreams with enough hard work. Why bury this seemingly beneficial ambition? Because the fear of crushed hope is a fear bigger than the others. Most of the time hope motivates us for the now and helps keep us going, but is it worth it at all when the fragility of our aspirations can so often lead us into despair? They say  ‘Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all,’ but is it really though? Even after deep contemplation, the answer to that question still eludes me. Still though, I refuse to believe that there’s nothing for me to do to reach that level. Even with the constant doubt of success and the gnawing feeling of failure, there’s an occasional compulsion to strive to be the best. Whether I’ll ever reach my goal is the true mystery.

Tips For College

Learning isn’t the same with everyone.  Don’t get discouraged if you’re not making the grades everyone else is — you’re there to learn (and unfortunately pass so you don’t lose money), and will use your knowledge that you learned just as effectively as anyone else in the workforce(or at least a good 50% of the workforce). Studying is essential (unless you have a photographic memory) and you will have to buckle down and cram things occasionally. Spend time analyzing how you learn and always seek the most efficient way to retain information. Acknowledge that reading the book doesn’t have to be the only way to study — and there are some pretty interesting methods out there. Some examples would be writing notes on your hand to see them throughout the day, having post-it notes all over your room, and even making scanned copies notes into your phone wallpaper. Some of these may sound ridiculous at first, but in my experience you have to do whatever it takes to get the job done. Soon enough you’ll start to realize that time is one of the most valuable resources to have, and the most horrible things to waste. Although I may make it sound easy to study, I personally have a hard time doing it and am constantly underperforming. The thing that matters is that I try, and know that there’s always room from growth. I’m not one to believe that anyone can do/be whatever they want with enough work put in, but I also know for a fact that I’ll never know definitively until I try.

 

About Me

I’m a computer science student in college hoping to one day achieve a masters degree but, as indicated by the name of the blog, I’m slowly realizing that may never happen… After numerous hours spent dawdling over the idea that I may never graduate, this idea for a website slowly morphed into…this. Hopefully, things will start looking up for me as I share my college experience with whoever lands on this blog. Whether I post rants on the countless things I dislike or share inspiring insights, I hope this blog keeps someone somewhere entertained!