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College is great, but maybe not for everybody

Taking risks by diverting from conventional education system is seen as lazy, but can be the most rewarding experience for some

· Mar 6, 2017 Tweet

Andrew Salewski/The Badger Herald

Education is an incredible privilege often taken for granted. The casualness with which we attend and experience schooling is almost second nature. This is not a bad thing — in fact it’s an incredible blessing, conceptually. A society that thinks of school as a given is in a high position of privilege, but also reinforces the idea that the process of schooling is normal and, most of all, rigid.

Kindergarten prepares you for grade school, grade school prepares you for junior high, junior high prepares you for high school, high school prepares you for college and college prepares you for a job in the “real world.” This leaves us with two questions: Can that pattern be broken? And what does the “real world” even mean?

In some senses, the path to world preparedness is designed for students to have the best shot at success at a later stage in life. It’s not as though classes and curricula are created mindlessly with no emphasis on a greater goal. College classes especially are designed to pinpoint the enthusiasm of budding members of contemporary adult society and nurture those students into curious, passionate individuals, and are often successful in accomplishing this.

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That’s a beautiful thing, but is by no means a universal experience. It’d be fantastic to imagine a society where the education system ensured every student got exactly what they needed, but the fact remains that this is pure fantasy. Rather, there are students who struggle to find the fulfillment that college can offer, and instead search for an alternate, unconventional, but equally fulfilling experience.

This is, again, by no means impermissible, but is viewed with a certain level of disapproval or skepticism. But students have an incredible opportunity living in the modern world to pursue whatever path suits them best. Whether this entails attending an unconventional high school that emphasizes alternative teaching methods and curricula; taking a gap year or two, or three, out of high school to experience life through an entirely new lens; or bypassing college altogether to pursue current passions in the Peace Corps, apprenticeships or internships, all provide a fresh take on a societally ingrained education system.

Taking risks is revered and sensationalized societally. “Just go for it” is a common quip associated with the concept and is used with fervor and passion until it becomes real.

That fervor fizzles out when risk is associated with education. Taking a risk with an unconventional learning experience is seen as impulsive, lazy or misguided in most cases.

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The general reaction is that the individual won’t be able to land a job later on, or that they’re pursuing other options because they couldn’t handle the traditional education system. While a college degree says a lot on a job application and the traditional college experience is difficult, no one pursues other options to make their life intentionally and unnecessarily stressful and adverse. Rather they do so because they believe it’ll be the proper fit for them, so who’s to discourage that?

Secondly, the concept of the “real world” has become less and less relevant to today’s professional environment. Historically, working a traditional 9 to 5 day was commonplace to the point where it was nearly a norm. Nowadays, tech startups are popping up left and right with curators as young as the average college student, and journalism has blossomed into so many outlets that anyone who has a story to tell has a platform to share it. All these and more prove the the traditional education system is not the only key to a fulfilling future.

Bottom line, pursue what you love. If that entails taking a bigger risk than you’ve ever encountered, so be it. Traditional education systems are well-designed, but not universally so. Making the decision to divert from the norm doesn’t mean you reject the norm, it means you create your own. If you’re confident your choice will bring you the highest level of fulfillment, go for it.

Lucas Johnson ([email protected]) is a freshman and intends to major in journalism.