What can I do with a college degree? I’m certain this is a question students inevitably ask themselves while tears are streaming down their face, and they’re one cup of coffee away from going into cardiac arrest. Is it worth it all for a miniscule piece of paper that has value that is solely intrinsic? I’m here to argue that yes, it is.
Recently, a Slippery Rock University alum posted a video of himself burning his college degree on Facebook, stating “I’d like to thank Slippery Rock University for all the opportunities you’ve given me, but not for the skills required to achieve what I already have.”
I will not name the student I’m speaking about, nor am I here to lecture about what a mistake he’s made not only in burning his college degree, but also in burning bridges between himself and the people who have helped him achieve the success he’s claimed to have garnered on his own. That is not the intent of this editorial. Instead, I’d like to remind the students of SRU, and perhaps elsewhere, that a college degree doesn’t entitle you to anything, and that a college education is a reward in and of itself.
SRU was my first choice school. In high school, I had mastered the art of doing just enough to get by, and little more than that.
My parents shipped me off to college that August, and I was returned to them on the Dean’s List. Some might equate this to easy classes, or dumb luck, but it was certainly a change from what my parents were used to seeing.
The next semester, I started writing for The Rocket. The semester after that, I was its Assistant Campus Life Editor, and the semester after that, I began working on SLAB, SRU’s literary magazine.
Despite the added stress, and increase in class difficulty, my grades got better. I was overwhelmed the majority of the time, but infinitely proud of what I had accomplished and the relationships I had built with the people who were rushing at opportunites with the same passion that I was. The weight of all that I carried was heavy, but it didn’t crush me because I was proud to carry it. I had found what I loved, and by finding that, I found out a lot about myself. I would have never had any of this if I hadn’t gone to SRU.
Entitlement is definitely an issue with young adults in the world today, and please excuse me if I sound like one of your parents or grandparents by saying that.
Instead of appreciating the inherent learning experience that comes with attaining a college education, students and alumni are quick to cry that it shouldn’t be required to have a college education to make a living in this world, and further that because they don’t have a job relating to their field, that their degree is inherently worthless.
In doing this, they are ignoring that they are already making it in this world because they are fortunate enough to be able to afford a college education, a privilege denied to so many, and maybe even denied to those who are more deserving.
I understand that my college experience isn’t going to be the same as the majority of students’ experiences.
If your grades weren’t the best, but you recognize that you made friendships and memories that will last you a lifetime, then good on you. I will not judge the worth of your time here measured by my standards of success. As long as you realize that whether you spent the majority of your time in Bailey Library or in Ginger Hill, you’ve learned something about people, and hopefully something about your major, even if it’s that you want nothing to do with your major, you have grown.
This growth cannot be encapsulated within a diploma. If by the end of your time here, you claim that you have not learned anything, you are not only lying to yourself, but to hordes of potential students who are going to make this university their home. And it will be a home, a home where they will learn about themselves, and meet people who will help them succeed.
My college experience definitely wasn’t just sitting in the classroom, counting the minutes until class was over so that I could go sit at home. It certaintly wasn’t me whining that some opportunity hadn’t come and landed in my lap, and it won’t end with me sitting around wondering why my diploma wasn’t the end-all answer to my personal success and development.
If that was your college experience, you have no one to blame but yourself. If your college diploma is little more to you than a very expensive sheet of paper, then you are extraordinarily privileged to have been given the resources to purchase an expensive sheet of paper.
And no, that sheet of paper will not get you anything in this life, not unless you’re willing to dig your feet in the dirt and never give up.