Opinions expressed by Minority Mindset contributors are their own.
My time watching YouTube videos, listening to podcasts, taking Udemy classes, and reading books has taught me a great deal. If I was given a receipt with my degree I would have returned it a few years ago. The $60,000 worth of student debt wasn’t worth it.
Yes, I am a little bitter that my degree, wherever it may be, is collecting dust. At the same time, I feel as though the American educational system does a poor job of teaching life skills to students.
Look, I don’t care about the major themes and motifs of Naomi Shihab Nye’s poetry, tell me how to make passive income!
I could easily write a mountain of books about what I wish I learned in college, but here are the 5 most important things I wish I’d learned. If you take the time to educate yourself in each of these domains, you may not even need a silly little piece of laminated paper to certify you’ve dedicated 4 years of your adult life to a classroom.
I really wish I learned how to fail in college. I don’t mean bomb every exam, get ridiculed by my professors, and wear a “Dunce” hat. College should teach students about the whole process of failure. For instance, I once received a D- on a final paper that I’d poured hours into. I instantly attributed my failure to the professor by thinking things like “That guy just plays favorites any way. He’s a jerk, who cares about his opinion?”
Actually, it was an opportunity to take ownership of my efforts. I spent a lot of time researching and putting the paper together, but that didn’t mean I put good information into the paper. Moreover, I didn’t recognize that this was a chance to improve as a writer and a researcher. Many of our biggest achievements arrive after colossal failures. No one in school taught me that, but it sure would have been useful to know. It may have even turned my attitude around about the D-.
That professor is still a jerk though.
Obvious, right? Learning to invest is an incredible skill because proficiency in it involves learning a subset of smaller skills. For instance, if you plan to invest $1000 into a company you better know how to research and ask the right questions. Additionally, you need to acquire the ability to discriminate between good information and bad information. You’ve got to identify the “fake news.”
Learning how to invest time is incredibly important too. Sure, it’s fun to binge watch How I Met Your Mother on Netflix in your pajamas while scarfing down chocolate ice cream avoiding daylight. Who hasn’t done that? However, this can’t happen regularly. Mindfully planning rest periods and active periods in your day is imperative. If your 20s consist of bar hopping, television watching, and devouring junk food you’ve wasted the only thing you can’t get back—time.
Invest your money in reputable ventures so the interest compounds. Similarly, invest your time into good habits because positivity compounds.
3) Self Development
I will give some credit to the college experience for teaching me about self-development. Everything I learned about bettering myself came from joining student organizations and interacting with peers. This helped me gain exposure to a multitude of perspectives and strategies on how to live my life. Meeting people from Ethiopia, Vietnam, Hong Kong, and the United Kingdom offered me insight into new ways of thinking. Studying abroad is also an excellent method of further self-discovery.
However, the learning doesn’t go much further than that. Self-development should absolutely be taught by our professors who have that worldly experience. During my time at college it always felt like education was always about topics that appeared in textbooks.
I’ve never received a lecture about learning to be my best self, being happy, creating meaningful goals, or how to create good habits. Yet somehow 4 years in college is supposed to prepare me for the next 40+ years.
I grew up in a household in which my parents were constantly harassed by calls from creditors. Calls would go like this:
Credit Card Company : Is Mrs. A there?
Me: Umm…no she died.
Credit Card Company: I’m sorry to hear that. Could you please—
I’d usually hang up before they could say too much.
When I took out college loans I was told something like “Everyone has student loan debt, it’s just a part of life.”
Debt is monster that eats away at your income, drowns you, and sets you on fire just to watch you burn. It’s a vicious burden.
The issue with debt is that college nearly forces you to take out the loans to afford the tuition, room and board, and textbooks. The problem is further compounded by the fact that dozens of credit card companies target this demographic because students don’t know how credit, loans, interest, or debt operates. It’s exploitation.
A class about loans and interest would have been so helpful for me. Maybe I wouldn’t have cried my eyes out 6 months after graduation when I saw the size of my payments. I could have been empowered instead.
A self-care class should be required for everyone. There’s this cultural delusion that self-care looks like buying designer clothes, getting a massage, and “treating yourself” to an overpriced meal at a mediocre steakhouse. That’s not self-care, that’s awesome marketing by companies that run the “You deserve it” ad campaign.
Self-care is asking yourself if you’re OK, it’s meditation, it’s deep conversations about life with your loved ones, and it’s about making sure your mental and physical health aren’t in danger. It’s making time for yourself in a world that moves a billion miles an hour.
College feeds the exact opposite kind of behavior. Everyone is expected to be at this party or that party, to binge drink every weekend, pull all-nighters, be involved with campus activities, and maintain good grades. On top of that, after only experiencing a few years of adult life we’re expected to determine what the next 40 years of our life looks like.
Where’s the pause button?
There’s a lot to learn and much of it is not taught in a classroom, there’s not even a commemorative piece of paper to document the achievement either. Anyone can take out the loans, go to college, and make it to graduation day. This doesn’t mean they’ve learned anything.
Life is full of so many subjects that can’t be listed on the single page of a website. I assure you that your most powerful, defining lessons in life won’t be taught in a classroom.