Re-Visiting College

College is a shelter. You don’t realize it while you’re in it, but once you leave for 12 years and gain real life experience, you recognize it for what it is.

These next few days I’m at Cornell University for a slate conference. I had a few minutes to explore and I’m a minority as a 33 year old white male. If you’re a white student here, you’re the minority. I looked at the acceptance rate of Cornell and it was 14%. Combine that with the fact that the school has a 5 billion dollar endowment and you have an elite Ivy league university.

What I see being a decade removed from college is a lot of young people being told that getting their education will help them succeed. I call bullshit. Being a poindexter doesn’t equate to real life success. Being able to talk to another human about their life experiences has far more creedence than learning how to design a program to shoot a rocket into space. Coming back to a college feels like I’m living in a bubble.

I imagine that’s mostly my viewpoint as I hardly use any skills I learned in college. I also think it comes from learning more out of books that I read that out of school that have had far more value in my life. Knowing the equilibrium point of the supply and demand curve has 0 use to me. Knowing how to calm someone down and solving their problem as a consumer isn’t taught at school. It’s learned from real world experience. My perception as I walk around this campus is a lot of young people going through the motion of education. I’m sure they’ll be well off at the end of their lives with 4 years of this studious program. However, recognize that I’m walking around one of the most prestigious universities in our country. What about the other 95% of university students who compete with these nerds?

I can’t offer a solution here. On one hand, teaching humans more than they most likely need to know is helpful. These students have the opportunity of a lifetime with all the resources at their fingertips. There just seems to me to be a disconnect between what is learned in school and what applies in real life. The world doesn’t care that you have a degree from Cornell and earned straight A’s. It cares how resourceful and quick thinking you are in whatever situation you are in. For some reason, being on this campus isn’t making me that these kids are coming out with all the right skills.

By | 2017-09-28T09:58:03+00:00 September 28th, 2017|My Brain|2 Comments


  1. Sam Stortz September 28, 2017 at 4:34 pm

    Whenever anyone asks what I learned from college, it’s never ‘this class taught me that’. I always say the same two things, and I think both are because Ursinus was such a small school.

    1) It taught me how to work in groups. Almost every class I took required group work and you learn how to work well with smart people and know how to deal with ‘dumb’ people. This also preps you on how to run meetings. In school, five people meet up for a project and if no one ‘takes ownership’, the meeting goes nowhere and it’s a waste of time. It’s amazing how often that happens at work as well. This isn’t formally ‘taught’ at school, but when you’re exposed to it enough like we were at Ursinus, you naturally pick up what’s going on.

    2) It made me comfortable with public speaking. Almost every class I took required also required a presentation(s) of some sort. I learned that if you know the material front to back, there’s no need for note cards or hours of rehearsing. You also get exposed to dozens of good presentations and dozens of bad ones. You see what makes a quality public speaker. Humor, confidence, actual knowledge, and not reading word-for-word from something. Nothing is worse than reading word for word from something, it’s cringe-worthy. Presenting often at Ursinus definitely prepared me to present well at work.

    It’s not about the literal learning, because you’re right, very little of what you actually learn will be applied it in the real world. But it’s about gaining experience for how to solve problems and work with others.

  2. CK4 September 30, 2017 at 10:23 pm

    I completely agree TC. You know my history, and I would say that it has worked out for me.

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