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Are any colleges worth it?

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I have always loved learning, and searched it out in every possible form. The only problem is, that which should be the greatest source of learning in my life, i.e. school, has never taught me much at all. The state of all schools in my area is so dismal that learning is just not something that happens there, with the exception of one or two teachers. My question is, are colleges any different? Is it worth four years of my life and my parents money for me to go to college if I am not going to actually learn? By the way, I don't care in the slightest about the piece of paper if it comes from an institution I don't respect, and I won't respect any institution that claims to exist for the sake of educating yet doesn't... I am at a turning point in my life, and I need to make sure that I choose correctly.

[Extra things came to mind, edit below]

I almost feel like I would learn more by going to the library, using the internet, and possibly in a few cases having a one on one session with a professor or teacher at a school near me... The overwhelming feeling is that I will just face more of what I am currently facing in college. I am coming here because I am hoping against all hope that I am wrong, and I know that none of the people in my personal life would understand this question well enough to answer it.

Edited by Cogito
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There is no short way to answer the dilemma of whether or not to attend college, so instead I will try to touch on some key aspects to consider, based on my own experience.

The value of a university, for the vast majority of its students (whose purpose is to actually work at some point, as opposed to drink and mooch their parents' money), is to gain a piece of paper which proves you "did the time." Outside of whether the education actually is an education, some professions are not accessible without going through school. Law and medicine come to mind. Other professions, such as becoming a CEO of a business, can be achieved other ways, as by actively educating yourself in any and every way you can think of and working from the ground up of a company or a field. Determining what kind of profession you will enter will be a big factor in determining whether the school route is good for you. Not to mention your personality. Some people can't handle making complicated life plans on their own and prefer to go through a university where the plans are pre-determined.

Anyone who asks, I recommend taking a year or two off after high school before beginning school at a university. The idea that a teenager is supposed to know what he wants to be doing for the next fifteen years of his life, enough to devote five years to learning a profession he may or may not stick with, is to me ridiculous. Taking some time to throw ideas around in your head is essential. Also, working a lower-level job to support yourself provides an excellent perspective as to what your new life is or will soon be like, without the financial support of your parents. You will be light-years ahead of your peers if you do this (if you are not sure about school). Not only that, you will gain independence and confidence that you can "do it yourself." And any able person can!

But what if you don't want to go to college?

DON'T GO. I cannot stress this enough. You will be miserable no matter which way you try to approach your classes, and your reward will be torturing yourself until you are compelled to quit early, or certifying yourself in a field of work you do not value and are miserable doing. And what if you never want to go? Well, there are many ways in which to gain an education, with the internet and all of the fantastic means of communication available now, and you will have to decide for yourself if your best choice is college. Read through university programs. Talk to students. Is the same information available in books you can order through Barnes and Noble, and through contacts you can establish over the internet?

If you wind up deciding that you can learn what you need outside of school faster and cheaper, and that is your preferred route, there are some things to consider:

You will be working to support yourself while you educate yourself. Time-wise, working full time is a big change from not working at all. Many bright students have the opportunity to go to school while their parents pay the bill, or they receive scholarships, and this makes attending school the "job" and leaves students a lot of free time. Again, depending on your goals and your personality, your amount of free time may or may not be an issue.

Most people will not understand your decision. That means your peers and your family. High school students are groomed for college, and if you are going to go against the stream, you are going to need some solid reasons for doing it. That isn't just for explaining to the people you know, but so that in your head, when your family member/friend insinuates for the fifteenth time that it would be better if you were in school, you are confident in your decision.

You will be figuring a lot of things out on your own, outside of your actual education. The resources of a university, which provide educational and professional contacts, will not be as available. Also, if you begin to consider "making up your own profession," so to speak, it may not be worth it for you to give up a set path available through a university, such as becoming a sports therapist. The profession is already there, and well-defined. But, it may be worth it for you, depending on your professional goals and interests.

For me, the benefit of not going to school has outweighed the costs, including those above. I like to learn on my own, I do not like going to class, I do not like the structure of the degrees. I have decided that college is not right for me, but I considered lots of things before making that decision, and it took a lot of time to get there.

I will say that there is no reason to feel overwhelmed when deciding such hefty things as a profession. All you can do is take the information available to you, weigh the costs and benefits, and make the best decision you can. Ask for opinions from people you value, and weigh that in with everything else. Don't get impatient with yourself, and don't expect to learn everything all at once (since you can't!). Ten or five years down the road, you may change your mind, but who cares? You'll be making the best decisions you can then, too. In the end, make the decisions for yourself.

Good luck!

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I would only add that while most Objectivists find things to rightly hate and rail against in Higher Education, that it is possible to find Colleges that actually do provide very good classes and a challenging college expirence. Do what you think is best, but don't assume that a college education will necessarily be like your High School education.

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Cogito: I read your post, and, as someone who attended 5 different schools before being happy with one, let me give you my advice.

First of all, my advice should only apply if you are studying either the liberal arts or the soft sciences (e.g. Business, Accounting, etc). If you want to study something like Chemistry, Physics, Mathematics, or any other hard sciences, I strongly suggest finding a school for you.

First advice: Drop out. Get a job doing what you enjoy. Be ambitious; make mistakes, and learn from those mistakes (either by keeping a journal, or some other method of learning from them). This will result in you getting some "real world" experience, and knowing what will work or won't work in real life.

Second advice: When you are ready to go back to school, perhaps attend an online school. This will free up your time from having to attend lectures where the professors are either teaching to the lowest person in the class, or is trying to push a political agenda. There are many online schools out there (for profit, of course), and you shouldn't have any difficulties finding the right school for you.

Third advice: Find a Mentor. If you know the field that you want to go into, seek out a mentor who can help you increase your knowledge and who can help you solve any problems.

Forth advice: Join Toastmasters. Its important for an individual to know how to communicate his ideas to others. Toastmasters can help you develop those skills, as well as help you develop your leadership skills.

If the field that you are studying is the hard science (e.g. physics, chemistry, etc), I have no advice that I can give you (because those subjects requires listening to lectures, and doing labs). Perhaps someone on this form can provide input.

Good luck with your education, and I wish you all the best.

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My question is, are colleges any different? Is it worth four years of my life and my parents money for me to go to college if I am not going to actually learn? By the way, I don't care in the slightest about the piece of paper if it comes from an institution I don't respect
They are different, but perhaps not different enough for you. Many young people go to college because they can't think of anything better to do, and that has a serious negative effect on education because it means that your classmates will not be very interested in learning. However, this often changes when you discover what you want to do, and move into classes populated by majors (i.e. those who actually want to be there) -- at that point the quality of education dramatically improves. (There are exceptions: I don't think sociology ever gets better, for example). It's not a good investment of tens of thousands of dollars to discover "Now I know 6 things that I don't want to do with my life". Assume that you're going to just get a job, then think about what job you want (not what job you feel you might be able to get, but what you want). A career in the building trade doesn't require a bachelor's degree, whereas a job as a biochemist does. So first discover what you are naturally good at and what you find rewarding, and then get the necessary job skills. It might not be anything academic at all.
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First, thank you all for your advice.

It might not be anything academic at all.

I'm pretty sure it will be academic... The majority of things that I have considered doing (Teacher or professor in high school or college, scientific researcher in physics, chemistry, biology, medicine, philosopher, mathematician) with my life are pretty academic. Beyond that, I am considering something in the IT field, I've been programming and fixing computers and building my own since 10, and I am also considering inventor. Right now I am most strongly considering teaching with the others as side issues, and I am about 80% sure that is where I will go in my life.

[Edit below]

After further reflection, I'm not sure that 80% was correct... Right now, I like teaching the most only because it is the only profession that I've had hands on experience in, as a tutor. Really, I would like to do something that allows me to do all of these, something like a research professor at a University (in a forum about whether colleges are worth it :worry: ). Lets just say that at this point I don't really know what I want to do, but that I have a list of interests and abilities(I am very good in all of the above areas).

Edited by Cogito
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I'm pretty sure it will be academic... The majority of things that I have considered doing (Teacher or professor in high school or college, scientific researcher in physics, chemistry, biology, medicine, philosopher, mathematician) with my life ...

Have you considered biomedical engineering? It involves most of the fields you've mentioned: medicine, biology, chemistry, mathematics, philosophy (of course), physics, and also a lot of machine/electrical engineering if you want to take that path... (imaging devices, artificial organs, robots for surgery, biological chips and such).

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Have you considered biomedical engineering? It involves most of the fields you've mentioned: medicine, biology, chemistry, mathematics, philosophy (of course), physics, and also a lot of machine/electrical engineering if you want to take that path... (imaging devices, artificial organs, robots for surgery, biological chips and such).

Just yesterday I had a two hour conversation with one of my closer friends about the amazing possibilities of biomedical engineering and how amazing work in that field would be... I've certainly considered it. It is high on the list.

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Assuming for the sake of argument that I do want to go into the sciences... Where would I go? Is there any good school that will accept me without requiring me to submit to the bs that is my high school? I have been looking for some time, and I really can't find one...

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Is there any good school that will accept me without requiring me to submit to the bs that is my high school? I have been looking for some time, and I really can't find one...
What specifically is the "bs" that your high school puts you through?

There are serious learning tracks in most institutions of higher education. There are also certain majors and classes that tend to be filled with screw-offs. Like most things in life, college is what you make of it.

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Assuming for the sake of argument that I do want to go into the sciences... Where would I go? Is there any good school that will accept me without requiring me to submit to the bs that is my high school?
I'm not sure what you mean by "submit to BS". For instance, if you're asking if nearly 100% of what you're required to do will be rational and will be what you want to do, then I doubt you'll find such a school. For instance, suppose you go to MIT to study engineering. You'll get opportunities to do things that you would never be able to do in a library. However, you will also be required to do some humanities courses and the like, that you would not have opted for if given the choice.
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You'll learn more on your own than you will in college. This from someone who went to college for 2 years, dropped out to work in his chosen industry for 7 years and then opened his own successful business. If you are a book worm, then you'll learn even more, so long as the books aren't left or right wing propaganda.

The years of school I did have were at Columbia College Chicago, which is more of a trade/vocational school though it did have its share of crackpot teachers (a "Humanities for the Visual Artist" class run by an old hippy with a tremendous white afro, named Fern, holds vivid memories of suffering at the hands of cracked liberal nutcases). I took all the classes I could which actually taught me real-world technical skills in film and video. I could have done completely without the other general-ed courses (english, lit) I took, but it was credit, and at the time and I was under the impression that one needed a degree to get a job. I learned otherwise. Lots of people I saw with degrees couldn't draw their way out of a wet paper bag after 4 years in art school.

Columbia didn't care about my dropout status later, when they asked me to teach classes, which I did part time one semester after work.

Now, none of it matters because I am pretty much unemployable-- nobody can offer me anything to where it's worth my time to take their job. That's where you want to be :) Wish I'd gone the self-employed route earlier, but you can't taste the good without knowing the bitter.

I say find a decent voc-tech place that has what you want to learn, and go just for those classes.

My $.02

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I wouldn't suggest it if I didn't know you knew Hebrew... But if you decide that the sciences (especially biomedical engineering) is the direction you want to go for, and you find no university in the US to satisfy you, you can always check out my university: Technion institute of technology. It provides high quality education, and no social/religious/humanitarian obligatory BS in sight. You sound like a pretty smart kid (sorry if that=kid insulted you :)), so you would enjoy the challenge that studying here provides, even though (a fair warning is due) it is insanely busy here. I mean, you'll be studying all day long and still have more to do at the end of each day. It can be a lot of fun. There might be times though, as impossible as it may seem, that you would miss the lazy days of HS (sigh :P)... At least for me it is so.

One thing I love about this place is that wherever you look you can always find an intelligent face, or people discussing some mathematics or some scientific phenomena they just learned about. I really love that atmosphere. I love being around people who love thinking, who love learning things, thinking about them, integrating, paying attention to subtleties. Crazy for it.

Attending lectures is up to the student's choice (in almost all courses), some courses are offered on video, there are huge libraries here, fast Internet for all students, a lot of top-of-the-line research in various fields, and the school itself is beautiful for my taste.

Oh yeah, did I mention it's in Israel?

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As far as biomedical engineering goes, I've heard Duke University has a great program...

http://www.bme.duke.edu/

but then, I might be a bit biased...

The school unfortunately has a lot of the academic nonsense endemic at US universities, but it also has the amazing Gary Hull:

http://www.duke.edu/~hull/

Edited by LaszloWalrus
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I am in a similar situation as you. What I have decided to do is join the peace corps (I'm in it for the adventure, not altruisticly :worry: ) and then go to college to become a mechanical engineer. I am hoping that the two won't be too easy, or too boring.

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If your leaning towards the Hard Sciences, where it would be impractible for you to study on your own (how are you going to afford an MRI machine to do experiments with...), then I do suggest studying at a college or university.

Next question. How much money do you have access to? I come from a very poor family, where there was no money for college, so I went to community college (its free). What most people do then is to transfer out of the community college (once they complete their undergradute classes, or BS classes, if you would) and then go into a university, saving money.

Now, as I said, I was a Business major, not a physical science major (sadly...). However, I did hear that in some majors (e.g. Art, and Physics) their "General Education" classes are tied into the subject. For example, if you are studying Art (which you arent, this is just an example), A history class will become an Art History class, and so on (in effect, removing most of the BS).

The next question then becomes, "what school". Assuming money and time is no object (because of scholarships, or wealthy parents) I would acquire as much information as possible. I would start with the book "The 250 Best Colleges and Universities in the USA" (assuming you want to stay in the USA, and not go to Israel). From there, I would identify which school offers the equipment and majors that I want (I would try and narrow it down to 10). I would then contact each school, and try to sit in on one of their classes in your major. I would talk to the students, and make a judgement on what type of people your classmates are going to be (e.g. party people, or study people). Meet with the professors, and get to know them as well, and make sure they are rational, intelligent people. Then, after doing this for each school, I would make a decision, and enjoy your education.

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Thanks for the advice everyone... So far I've visited the University of Maryland, Princeton, Stanford, and Harvey Mudd. Harvey Mudd looked like it just might be a dream come true... I think I'll keep you all updated.

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