Opinion: Should You Go to College?

College is intimidating photo courtesy of: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Williams_College

College is intimidating
photo courtesy of: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Williams_College

Yes.

That is the automatic response that the vast majority, if not all, of Branson students will give if posed that question.  Not only is that what we are essentially trained to say in response, but many Americans consider that a hypothetical or rhetorical question.  If someone asks that question, do they really intend for you to consider it and think about it? I would say not.

And therein lies the issue.

I really did not care for the college process in any way.  I’m not yet done with it by any means, but just a few months away from hearing back from all the schools I applied to, I’m pretty sure that my distaste for the process will not change. It was (and sometimes still is) very common in my household to have loud and heated arguments about college.  But I can’t be mad at my parents.  I have ranted for hours about the spawn of Satan that is College Board. But I can’t be mad at it either.  I have been spiteful towards Branson for seemingly overly demanding classes and making the college process start almost a year before the first applications were due. But I can’t be mad at Branson. Finally, I turned my rage towards the very institutions to which I was applying. But I can’t really blame them either.

Where I direct my frustration, anger, and incredulity is American society as a whole. Our society has a very specific definition of what “success” is.  If one can achieve that success, then they are able to live a content, comfortable, and sometimes a simply delightful life. In order to achieve that success, however, most everyone, with the exception of some successful actors, musicians, athletes, and other celebrities, has to run through the grueling gauntlet that society has put in place.

An unfortunately large portion of this country does not seem to care the slightest bit about the state of public education.  Those who do care have helped create a system of higher education, of which Branson is a part.  Our education system, as broken as it may be, makes up a large part of the aforementioned gauntlet. I am not criticizing Branson—some of my best experiences have been here—I am criticizing the system for creating this claustrophobic conveyor belt to “success.”

Think of the lottery—the more tickets you buy, the greater chance of winning you have; if you pay more per ticket, then you have a chance of winning more money.  The same concepts apply to our education system—the more levels of school you graduate from, the greater chance of success you have. Considering how broken many of the public schools are, if you attend private institutions, you have a greater chance of success.  Of course, there are exceptions: college dropouts like Steve Jobs go on to have some of the most lucrative jobs in the world.  But for every Steve Jobs, there are surely hundreds of people who end up working thankless jobs.

So basically, we don’t have much choice.  We are effectively trapped within the system unless we want to entirely remove ourselves from the system and go dirtbagging (which is not unattractive).  But still, the system is coercing me into applying to college. I’m sure that I will have a positive experience in college and I will benefit from it, but knowing that I am being pigeonholed is incredibly unsettling to me. What is more disturbing is that the system knows that it is one of your only options, so it has evolved to strip you of your money, and your motivation, among other things. These institutions have the audacity to charge you $60-100 so you can have a 7% chance of paying them $60,000.  But they can all do it and get away with it because there aren’t really other options.  There is an elephant of stress, anxiety, pressure, and expectation that rides around on your shoulders every day, pushing you down to the ground, but if you want to succeed, at least, according to our society, then you have to be strong enough to sprint, on a treadmill, with that elephant on your shoulders.  If you can, kudos to you—I’d like some advice. I don’t have a solution, but we definitely need to expand the conversation, and until we have a solution…deal with it.

Yes, you should go to college, because there you will have immense opportunities that open your mind to a myriad of disciplines and you will grow as a person.  You will succeed.  Just be aware of the tunnel through which you crawl.