Friday, October 23, 2009

10 Things College Has Taught Grads About Life

7. Vacation

Free time is precious. This is not something that we really learn until college graduation approaches. In kindergarten we went to school for a half a day. The next 12 grades only held class 180 days a year, which left over half of every year where you weren’t in a classroom. Summers were months=long leisure marathons, interrupted only by school schedules with generous holiday breaks peppered throughout the calendar. In college these sprawling vacations began to disappear. Sure, you still had the benefits of summer, but as you got closer and closer to graduating that free time began to evaporate. Increasingly your free time was spent looking for a job to pay for that new apartment, or that semester abroad, or your new car. By junior and senior year everybody was strategically scrambling to fill his or her free time with internships.

Then you graduate and this expanse of free time disappears like gossamer blown to dust. Once you do land a job you will have nothing closely resembling this languid academic schedule. You will work 40+ hours a week, every week. There is no such thing as summer; there is only a season when it is hot outside your office. There is no spring break; spring break was a final parting gift of childhood granted to college students. There are no three-week breaks for the holidays. “Christmas break” becomes a 24 hour event. For the first couple years of your professional life you will probably only have two weeks of vacation that you can take over the entire year. That is 10 days. Use them wisely, vacation is precious, enjoy it studiously.

8. Problem Solving/Critical Thinking

Guess what, you went to college to learn how to think critically and analytically. Sure, some of us are engineers and molecular biologists and we took classes on things that we are going to need to apply in our professions. But lots of us studied Philosophy and English and, while a few of us may become philosophers and novelists, the great many of us will not be employed in the exact field of study that was our major. Does that mean we wasted our time? Absolutely not. College teaches us to think critically, to challenge tired assumptions, to revaluate our frame of reference, and to recalibrate our inquisitive lens. We graduate not knowing more than we do know, but we leave university with the confidence and the tools to locate those answers that elude us. If we leave college with the ability to think critically than that is the sign of a successful university experience. Your boss is probably not going to ask you what year Phillip II sent the Spanish Armada to attack Elizabeth I, or what economic motives incented this attack, but at least you know several ways to discover and package that information in a succinct and professional manner.

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