Upon high school graduation, my peers and I have heard the phrase over and over again. “These next four years are going to be the best years of your life.” I never really had a grasp on what that meant. Why would four years of going to school be so great? The weeks leading up to the first day of school were full of a mutual anticipation between everyone that was going off to college. The only issue was, I didn’t know what it was we were anticipating, and to be honest, I know it wasn’t sitting in a class room. Up until this point, I had been used to sitting in classrooms and learning a share of useless information that I knew I would forget as soon as I crossed the stage at graduation. While some students have trouble comprehending the true purpose of going to college, their parents always appear as if they know the exact reason why their kids are embarking on this quest, after all, why would they pay so much money for it and not know why?
A very apparent reason for attending college is to expand our knowledge in an assortment of subjects. The mission statement of DePaul says that the school “pursues the preservation, enrichment, and transmission of knowledge and culture across a broad scope of academic disciplines.” Of course this general goal will be apart of every colleges mission, this makes perfect sense, but this cannot be the only reason why college students end up where they are. College offers a time and a place for maturing and finding out what we truly feel is important to us. It is at this time when we find our true independence and the experience that comes along with it is just as important.
“To become a more mature person is to grow intellectually, to form guiding values, to become knowledgeable about oneself, and to develop social, interpersonal skills.” (Heath 4) While what we learn in class may contribute to our advancement toward a higher level of intellect, most of these aspects are taught and learned outside of the classroom. We learn about ourselves through our interactions with our peers. Some of my best arguments have been between myself and a friend rather than in a persuasive essay for a class. These sort of interactions between students are even more prevalent in college because everyone is living so closely together. Friendships in college are arguably the most important and long term friendships that we will have (Berry 1) and some may even go as far to say that the friends we have during our lifetime are far more important than any amount of facts that we know or what jobs we have.
Once we get to college, we’re suddenly expected to become our own boss. We learn how to manage our time in a completely different way than what was normal in the past (Berry 1). We essentially learn how to go about our daily lives without our parents guiding us day to day. This isn’t to say that those who don’t go to college never learn how to survive without their parents, but college speeds up the process and condenses it into a four year span. It’s almost frightening how quick college students are expected to adapt to a completely different life on their own. Students are already supporting themselves through part time jobs while paying rent during their sophomore year. Without having parents around to tie up loose ends or help manage time, students in college are able to develop a sense of independence. There is also a feeling of satisfaction when a student can finally fall into a schedule that works for them.
The maturing that takes place while in college can be a direct result of the learning that takes place through the education provided at that school. Heath argues that “education remains the principal institutional agent for promoting the the growth of young people in contemporary society.” While these can be considered high expectations to fulfill, many parents believe that their children will become adults while they are in college, and students have that same assumption. Since it is such a common standard, it is a big issue when a school doesn’t reach it’s standards. There are increasingly large numbers of students who are in, or have been to, college and think that it has failed in it’s implied task to produce compelling maturing effects (Heath 2). There becomes an issue of “empty academicism,” which implies that no matter what students are learning in the classroom, if it’s not contributing to their growth and maturity, then it is ineffective and nearly counter-productive. Students who feel that their college experience provided them with empty academicism have gone as far as to boycott their classes in order to “liberate” the university (Heath 2). While there is an agreement among many students that every university is entitled to provide them with a learning experience that involves more than just academics, there is a question of what exactly they should be taught.
Heath considers man’s most important cultivated skills to be judgment, analytic and synthetic thinking, logical reasoning and imaginativeness. Once a person has acquired these skills, their future is thought to be limitless. “For most educators, the measure of becoming educated is the extent to which a person has developed and perfected such skills,” (Heath 4). After being in college for nearly an entire school year, I have found that there are some teachers that challenge students into developing these skills, and there are some that don’t. The difference is quite obvious. There are classes that involve analyzing on our own, reasoning with our peers and using our imagination, and then there are classes that involve listening to a professor ramble on and on for an hour and a half while no one pays any attention. These same classes are the ones that I have taken very little away from, even academically speaking. “But college should be a time we develop a life plan for ourselves where we examine beliefs and whats important to us.” (McManus)
When a class is lacking in elements that it takes to mature in college, then what is really learned in that class? Math formulas and vocabulary words will only be a faint memory when we’re adults, but what will stick with us are the skills that we need to use on a daily basis, because they are necessary.
Heath, Douglas H. Growing Up In College: Liberal Education and Maturity. Jossey – Bass Inc., Publishers, San Francisco, 1968.
Berry, Dave. “The First Year College Experience” College Confidential. <http://www.collegeconfidential.com/college_life/first_year.htm>
McManus, Andrea Silva. “Finding Purpose in College: A Journey of Meaning Making” Castleton Spartan. 31 January 2007. <http://media.www.castletonspartan.com/media/storage/paper1017/news/2007/01/31/Opinion/Finding.Purpose.In.College.A.Journey.Of.Meaning.Making-2681424.shtml>