Friday, April 13, 2012


Having listened recently to one of my students lament facing a $30,000 student loan payback when she graduates, I had at the time only sympathy to offer.  But thinking more about it, I now have some advice that won’t help her clear her debt but might help justify the cost of her higher education—yet it’s ironic advice.

I’d tell her that the best way to justify that large investment of money is to make an equally large investment of energy into her studies, not to please professors and earn high grades, but to seize the precious opportunity that four years of undergraduate study gives her to grow intellectually and characterologically—to grow smarter and wiser.

So many students act like puppets being yanked about by the seeming strings attached to them by curriculum requirements and syllabus assignments, “getting rid” (they will say) of what they perceive as impositions impressed by professors, or jumping the hurdles set out along the course of the semester, ending the race exhausted rather than exhilarated.

What I’m urging is a radical attitude adjustment toward your studies and your studying.  You need to look at each course you take as a chance for you to change yourself significantly.  Ask how the material you will be studying and the mentality it demands of you will strengthen and enhance your functioning.  If you study it well, how will it form and reform your mind?  What skills will you develop and sharpen?  What significant knowledge will you gain and retain?

If you are taking a course merely to check it off your list of requirements, you are wasting your time and your money.  Adjust your attitude.  Take every course for the benefits you take from it.  Seek those benefits proactively.  Make it serve your growth.  If an assignment seems useless or ridiculous to you, talk with your teacher about it, looking for how it will help you grow mentally or otherwise.

It may seem ironic that the way to get your tuition’s worth out of your collegiate experience is to work your butt off.  But all education is self-education: others may attempt to teach you, yet only you can learn.  Your job, then, is to make yourself a master learner and thereby get the biggest bang for your bucks.