Allow me to state something right off the bat: your education is your responsibility. No matter what anyone else tells you, you will always have the ability to take your education into your own hands. From encyclopedias, to the internet, to those who you surround yourself with, there are millions and millions of resources to pull knowledge from. At times, your education will require more attention. If you chose to exercise complete autonomy over it, there will no longer be any teachers or administrative staff to regulate your learning. However, they will also no longer be there to make it simple.
As a college student, I see a lot of people stressing over their education. I've barely finished my first week in college so I can't speak from my experience yet, but I believe I can speak from others. When I look around campus, I see a hustle and bustle that I can only describe as that type of airport stress. The kind that puts an extra jump in your step and makes you furrow your brow even if it's not sunny outside. Our backpacks are slowly giving us hunchbacks as we carry around $500.00+ worth of textbooks. It's not a very peaceful environment.
One thing most of these students can't find peace with is their schedule. During the add-drop period, everyone is constantly watching their classes, making sure they're guaranteed a seat in the ones they want and waiting to be accepted into others so they can drop the ones they don't. The number of classes you're taking is indicative of your work ethic. The higher the better. If you're like me and you decide to take the minimum number of credit hours to ease into a new style of life, you're immediately marked as lazy.
To some people, their social status is valuable to them and dependent on how hard other people think they work. They pile on class after class only to realize that they can't manage all the reading without sacrificing their well being. Suddenly, their social status has become more important than their health and grades.
For most everyone, education is a large part of the beginning of their life. The majority of us will go through at least 13-18 years of compulsory education, sometimes more. Unfortunately, many of us don't realize that we could have had more control over that part of our life until much later.
Here are a few tips to help you take control of your education before you "finish" it:
- It doesn't matter what anyone else thinks. Most of the people here who cast a judgemental glance my way when they learn about my schedule don't know that I took as many AP classes as possible in high school. They don't know that I had 18 credit hours towards my degree before I got here. Their opinions won't pass my classes for me, so they don't mean anything.
- Plan ahead. Planning ahead may mean taking AP and IB credit classes to get a head start on college. It may also mean choosing homeschooling or online school over a traditional school to follow an unorthodox passion that you know you want to create a career out of.
- Figure out what type of education is right for you. I'm still trying to decide if college is something I'm going to continue with. The culture, level of challenge, and lifestyle that I have been experiencing at McGill will all factor into the choice I make at the end of the year. Just like tip number one, don't let other people's thoughts on your life dictate what you do with it.
- Work really hard. That old saying "if you love what you do, you'll never work a day in your life" really is not true. There are many many things I enjoy doing - such as writing - that still feel like chores when I am tired or burnt out. No matter what you're doing, you will get out of your education what you put into it. Whether that means getting your act together and turning in all of your assignments or dropping out of a school you hate, you're going to have to do some work before it gets easier.
- Acknowledge what you love and put as much time and effort into it as possible. In the end, those who do crazy things such as become professional basketball players or internationally renowned musicians are always those who blew off what seemed "important" for what they loved. No government mandated curriculum has any right to tell you what is worth your time.
In reality, our education is never really over. The beauty of being a human being is that you have every second of your life to experience something new. Your time on earth is unique to only you. Absolutely no one else will understand the way you viewed life unless you tell them. Be creative, do what you love, share your thoughts and ideas through a medium that is expressive and passionate. When you think about it, creating a meaningful education comes down to what you want to share with the world. Whether that is music or political theory or integral calculus, spend your time on what brings value to your life.