It goes without saying that college years are key for a young adult’s educational development. Students undergo a crash course in what they will be doing for the rest of their lives and learn an immense amount of information in the four-plus years they spend on campus. What students, myself included, often forget is that their education doesn’t have to begin and end with the classroom.
Simply due to the nature of the American education system and economic system, college students spend the vast majority of their time focusing intensively on one topic. It’s not a bad thing; this allows them to become experts in their chosen craft and to know more than most others about a certain topic. But it leaves other topics by the wayside. At an extremely competitive school like Tech, it contributes to a tunnel vision effect that obscures everything except the center.
Colleges have tried to solve this problem by requiring core classes in various areas. Engineers have to take a humanities class. Liberal arts students have to take a computer science class. But this does not go far enough to ensure that students, in their critical years of development into adulthood, are becoming well-rounded people.
It is up to the student to augment his or her own education. It is up to the student, the lifelong learner, to seek out new experiences, perspectives and knowledge.
Luckily, schools like Tech recognize that students need and want more than they are offered in their required classes. There are myriad resources, as long as students open their eyes and look for them. Student organizations, performances at the Ferst Center, cultural celebrations, and many other opportunities are offered to students, just waiting to be taken.
Some of the powerful and most memorable educational experiences might not be in class — they’ll be at a hackathon that you didn’t think you were prepared for, a filmmaking competition that had nothing to do with your major, a dance performance that made you think in a different way.
These are experiences that aren’t graded. They can’t contribute to your GPA, and you don’t get course credit for them. They are instead opportunities for students to explore the world around them in an educational environment without the pressure of grades. For students afraid to try something new because they are scared of failing, this is a foolproof method. There is nothing to be lost and so much to be gained.
In addition to gaining a world-class academic education while at Tech, we have the opportunity to get a cultural education. We are in fact obligated to get that cultural education, as it will be just as important when we take our academic skills into the world.
It will help us to have more intelligent conversations, to be empathetic towards those who are different from us, to discover what might interest us and make us tick. It will help us to be happy, productive adults with a passion for lifelong learning.