Musings on College


A/N: Please read the foreword to this before continuing reading. If you have already read the foreword then why are you still reading this? Look down dammit.  

I decided to make this my first ‘chapter’ (I choose not to number the chapters in this book because there isn’t a storyline to follow, it’s all based on ‘categories’ I suppose, hence if this isn’t the first chapter you’re reading, just go with the flow yo!) because my inspiration to write this book began with the rant on my blog that received peer agreement was a piece on college, or rather, bitching about college.

So what IS up with college?

If you sailed your way into college, I’d figure you won’t be reading this book, or if you are then, I am in no way dissing you. You’re a lucky bugger, be grateful for it. For the rest of you who struggled to get there or are getting there, I’m probably preaching to the choir.

Have you ever wondered why, we spend 6+4+2=12 years of our lives trying to get into college for the sake of a piece of paper? I mean, yea, granted I can understand about the ‘getting a decent job’ in the future mumbo jumbo but really, I have asked myself this countless of times, is it worth it?

It’s not that education or studying or exams are the problem (though many may beg to differ), I believe that they are, to an extent inevitable. However, the general system of college is, well, for the lack of a better word, fucked up. In an ideal world, we all want to be in an ideal college studying our ideal major(s) and get an ideal degree to get our ideal job. Sadly, as we all know, our world in not ideal. (Let us mourn in silence for 2 seconds for this fact.)

What’s the problem with college you ask? Yea, any adult you’ve talked to will probably tell you college is the best years of their lives, and I kid you not when I say, ‘They kid you not’. The problem isn’t college life, but the path getting there.

Think about it.

Short of third-rate colleges that you can pay your way into (which most of people who fail to get into college cannot do anyways), most decent colleges require you to have decent grades and extracurricular involvements. I’ve spent weeks and months researching on college admission requirements, and I can tell you I sometimes wonder why I bothered to overload my internet history with all those links that basically tell me the same things. ‘Students who have challenged themselves with rigorous courses in their high school..blah blah blah’, sounds familiar? Bet it does, and no I did not copy and paste it off the web. Fact is, all colleges are, unfortunately, not looking to educate YOU, but to raise THEIR name and prestige. All the good ones at least; though I suppose we do have educators out there who just want to teach, seeing as my mom is one and all. However, this would mean that between US and COLLEGE, are, at the very least, 3 years of sweat and hard work.

Of course, some people will say that for a decent college education, the sweat and hard work is all worth it, and I say, ‘Hell to the yeah! You’re right!’ But really, at the age of 17/18, how many of us really know what we want? In terms of education anyways.

The great Marie Curie wanted to major in every subject available in her college, because she was just that into studying. We’re probably don’t even share half of her brain capacity or conviction and most of us can’t decide what courses to take either. Between 7th to 10th grade, I was hell bent on double majoring in Literature and sociology. Then in 11th grade, I discovered that Literature was….not my cup of tea, and wanted to study Music business management and merchandising. Then halfway through my 12th grade, I suddenly felt that, although I liked that music, I also like photography, cooking, anthropology and all that stuff. Yes well, some sensible research junkies (mind you, I’m one myself), will tell you that you don’t have to decide on your major until 2nd year of your college. But that is only if you’re in America!

Actually, even if you are planning to go to an American university, that 1 year makes little to no difference. Why?
If you want to get into Brown University, it’s preferred that you’re a volunteer enthusiast and has done tons of social services. If you want to get into Wharton at University of Pennsylvania, they like students who have done serious internships or have immense work experience under their belt. And the no brainer would be that, if you want to study, say physics, at college level, you obviously have to take physics in high school, like, duh. If you don’t see where I’m getting at, read on.

In Singapore, which is the small island country I’m on, we have to choose our subject combinations, earliest at 9th grade, latest at 11th grade, and these combinations will impact what courses and in association, colleges I can get to in the near future. Your parents will probably call you fickle when you start doubting your college and career choices, but I mean, they, for most part, have a firm believe that we can’t choose a decent boyfriend/girlfriend at this age, what makes them think we can choose the right FUTURE!?

Not getting the big picture? Let me give you an example.

This is Bob. <Insert imaginary picture of Bob>

Bob is a triple science student (aka Chemistry/Physics/Biology) who has participated in many A* research programs (think of it as a science internship) and is on the school Robotics club. He has aspired to be a Marine Biologist since he was 5 years old. At 12th grade, after watching an inspirational movie about hotel management, he suddenly discovered that, He, Bob <insert lastname> wants to be a Hotel Manager. Sadly, all of the preparations he’s done since he entered grade school were for him to get into Harvard University’s research school. He was not taken any business/economics related subjects or done any extracurricular activities that would make him legible for any form of business/hospitality management schools. But he’s a straight A student with a perfect record. Henceforth, Bob realized that he has potentially wasted 12 years of his life, doing something that isn’t really his lifetime dream.

See the problem now?

I’m not Bob, actually I’m a lot better than Bob, because all the courses I’ve ever aspired to take, I can, given the subjects I have taken over the years. But thing is, to have the quality of activities that colleges want by the time you’re 17 or 18 years old means starting when you’re at least 16, and dedicating all your time to it. I wanted to get into Brown and Wharton, but unfortunately, I was in the Student Council for a good 5 years of my high school life, which if you look at it mathematically, is the arithmetic mean between social work (what brown is looking for) and entrepreneurship (what Wharton is looking for). Sadly, colleges don’t really accept ‘arithmetic means’. On the other hand, had I chose to involve myself in other activities just as demanding, I would have ended up half-assed in both and not get accepted anyways.

I had a teacher who told us that we deserve to be anxious and jumpy about the sheer lack of time in getting our college applications ready because we should have prepared for this since we got into 7th grade. Out of sheer politeness and respect, which I have thrown out of the window when writing this book, I didn’t tell him ‘Put a sock in it’ and really sock him in the face. You expect a couple of brats fresh out of elementary school to make a, pretty much, irreversible decision at 13 years old!? I mean, seriously? You don’t let us drive, drink, smoke, or fuck until we are 18 (or in some cases 21), but we’re allowed to decide, yes, well, just the REST OF OUR FREAKING LIVES when we’re THIRTEEN!? Someone PLEASE tell me the logic behind that.

It’s just plain screwed up to wake up one day and realize that you:

  1. Suddenly don’t know what you want to do
  2. You have to make that decision in like the next few months/weeks/days
  3. The decision you’ve just made most likely don’t coincide with what you’ve been doing for the past 12 years of your life
  4. Because of 3, you just noticed that you’ve wasted the said 12 years of your life
  5. As such you are stressed, emo and screwed.

And then, to add icing on the cake, or oil on fire, whichever floats your boat, when you start researching on colleges like crazy in hopes of finding the ‘one for you’, you notice that:

Big colleges are too impersonal, small colleges lack variety, prestigious colleges are skewed, lousy colleges are well lousy, oh and nearly every college is a ‘party school’. Suddenly, every college isn’t what you want, you don’t know what you want and well, nothing is what you want.

So lets summarize:

  • No colleges are perfect
  • You’re pressured into getting into a decent college
  • You are forced to make the decision very early on, when you don’t really know what you want
  • You notice that what you’ve planned for so many years ago, is not really what you want
  • You’re stuck between a rock and a hard place because it’s too late to change anything
  • But college dictates, for most part, the rest of your life.

You can say that this is the extremist view of the situation and I won’t disagree, but this happened to me and my peers and as I’m writing, I still can’t find the ‘one place for me’. Lets not forget that there are financial, environmental and cultural issues to consider. Also, sometimes a major you want to study may not be the major that will get you the decent job. What do you do then!? Is a piece of paper really worth all this agony, confusion and hassle? Does 18 years of my life really amount to a sheet of paper?

Don’t get me wrong, college is awesome, but the entire system leading up and out of it could use some…adjustments.

PS: Link to the original, much darker and less structured musing <LINK>

Musings on College

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