Why Is Going to College So Important?

Dear Jake,

I am 20 years old and in my third year of college. During the last two and half years I have changed colleges five times and changed my major more times than I can remember. I was thinking of withdrawing from college for awhile and working, maybe joining the coast guard, would this be a stupid thing to do? You talk about finding harmony in life with the things you do, and I have never felt anything I am doing in college is in harmony with who I am.



Dear Bill,

College is one of the most important aspects of succeeding in today’s world. College is much more than just a degree - in college you also learn how to learn, perhaps one of the most important things you can get out of college. Once you understand how to gather information by reading books about a subject, determine what information is important and what is not, and how to put it all together, you can master any subject, often without even going to college. By the way, doing a few Google searches and gathering information off the web that may or may not be accurate is not doing research, though it is a useful way to get a quick explanation on what a subject is and is good to find out what material is good to read.

College also increases your vocabulary. How you speak provides a subtle clue as to your education and knowledge, which is often used by employers to hire people. Walk into an interview speaking clear, well spoken English using a good vocabulary and you are immediately identified as someone with an education probably coming from at least a middle class background. Walk into an interview speaking slang, using a limited vocabulary, saying “y’all”, “y’know”, be unable to listen and respond correctly, etc. and no matter how you are dressed and what your degrees are, you are immediately identified as a poorly educated person who has little interest in really working. How you sit, how you speak, the words you use, your hand movements, how you listen and respond, all tell the entire story of your life.

Whether it is through conscious or unconscious awareness, it is these things that determine who is hired in a job and who gets promotions at work and who we attract into our lives. College is the environment where people develop the skills that make you appear to be intelligent, confident, successful and capable of accomplishing any goal. The degree you get is the key to the door, the general life skills you acquire in college determine if you get to use the key and what will happen if you get the door open and get into the room.

With that said, it is clear that telling someone to leave college is generally not a good idea. But in your case, Bill, you have been changing colleges and degrees as fast as is humanly possible. It is normal to change majors several times in American colleges as you experiment with different subjects. College is a very difficult time for nearly everyone as it is time to learn how to become independent, have discipline, develop new life skills, and learn how to balance between having fun and working. Add in the stresses of relationships and college is normally a difficult time, but it is also one of the most rewarding and important times of your life.

The first year of college, and sometimes even the second, is about learning how live your life within the college environment in a way that creates harmony with who you are. It is a time of experimentation and trial and error until you find what works for you. Eventually harmony is found by choosing a major that vibrates in a positive way with the person you are, finding a system of studying and learning that works for how your mind works, making friends with people who help you achieve your goals, or sometimes learning how to live without friends and relationships so you can study, etc. It is natural that your life will be in disharmony when the circumstances in your life change dramatically, such as when you go to college, but your life should eventually return to being in harmony.

In your case, with your changing majors more than five times, that is a hint that you do not know enough about yourself and what you want to do in your life to choose a major. Changing colleges every semester, as you must have done, is an even larger hint that you are just not ready for college. You are in your third year of college and you still have not found any way to create harmony in your life while attending college. After three years of trying every possible major and school and not finding harmony, it would seem that you are not just going to find harmony in college at this point in your life.

If you change college once it is because the place you were studying was not in harmony with what you want to do in your life. Change college as many times as you have done Bill and it is college itself that is not in harmony with your life. You need to look at your life and yourself and ask yourself if you are ready to go to college. Some people need some time exploring the world and different options to figure out what they want to do with life and to figure out what they want to study in college. Turning 18 does not result in some magic change in your brain that suddenly makes you ready for college. Some people are not ready for college at 18 and it is better for them to go college later when they are really ready to study.

I will say in your defense, though, that I give you much credit that you were willing to make dramatic changes in your life when you knew they were wrong for you, i.e. they were not in harmony with your life. Too often people stay with a major even though they know that it is not in harmony with who they are because they are afraid of the consequences that a change will make in their life. Changing majors, especially if you have been in a major for some time, often means spending an extra semester or two in college. This in turn means more money, time and effort to get your degree. But, is it better to spend an extra year in college and have a life time in a career you like or to get out on time and spend a lifetime in a career you hate?

When you hear college students talk about dropping out of college because they do not feel like college is right for them, the most important question is “What have you done to make college right for you?” For example, have you tried different majors, or have you tried to study in different environments, or have you worked with tutors and teachers to learn good study skills, or have you been willing to give up partying and having fun to focus on your studies? Many students expect that some magic will happen upon entering college and they will be able to get good grades and succeed without doing any work. That might be High School, but it is not college and it is not life. College usually requires a transition where you have to try different things to find out what makes the college environment to be in harmony with who you are. If all you have done is just shown up and you expect that things will happen to you, than it is not surprising if your experience is one of complete disharmony.

You have to mold the circumstances of your life as much as is possible to create harmony. If you show up for pottery class you cannot expect the clay to turn itself into a beautiful pot. You also cannot expect that the first pot you throw will be perfect. Failure is part of the process and can be one of your greatest teachers. By trying different things, you will learn just how much you can mold the clay, what you can do to coax it into what you are looking for, and eventually you will find a way to make that perfect pot. Sometimes, though, you might find that the clay you are working with just cannot be molded into the pot you want to throw. In your case Bill, you have tried very hard to mold your college inexperience into one that fits with your life and have not succeeded, and so it makes sense for you to think about moving on and finding other circumstances to mold into a life that is more in harmony with who you are.

Bill, while you may not know what you do want to do in life, you do know what you don’t want to do in life, and that is also important. If something is not right for you, you are willing to accept the consequences of trying to find what is right for you. In the end, this attitude will probably lead you to a path where what you are doing in your life is in complete harmony with who you are.

If you chose to leave college you should remember that college is more than just getting a degree, it is developing life skills. Choosing to work in something like the Coast Guard will give you many of the skills that you would learn in college, and so it is not a bad choice. The problem most people have when they leave college is that they do nothing to gain important life skills, they do meaningless jobs and watch TV and hang out instead of continuing to learn, to read, to experience the world. I hope that if you do chose to leave college that you will find a path that will take you back to studying once you are ready to go to college.  I wish you much success and luck in your life, and hope that you find what creates harmony in your life.


Contact: Jake@instantgoodkarma.org
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