For those of you that don’t know me all that well, I currently work in two high schools as a College Adviser in rural Michigan. My day-to-day routines consist of meeting 1-1 with students, giving class presentations, meeting with parents, financial aid advise, FAFSA completion, surveying, etc., the list goes on and on. One day, a wonderful colleague of mine posted an article and a question about the need to go to college. Should we be pushing these students the way that we do? I had an E-mail response that I was actually rather proud of, and I thought I’d share it.”Personally, I think college can quite easily be more about the experience than the degree. For all of us, as advisers in our schools, college is where we direct these students because it provides them with useful experience which, most importantly, includes getting out into the world. I don’t mean experience in that it gives them job skills, that can happen too, but rather experience that teaches them how to approach life holistically. It makes them well-rounded, humanists with a sense of understanding and quality. I think that college often times provides a passion, but that passion might be realized after graduation, and then the student finds out that they’ll have to go back to school to get educated on that passion. The issue, as of right now, is that we don’t have an alternative experience for people that is well known or recognized in terms of providing “credentials” and isn’t the military. If a student came to me with an offer of not going to school because they had a different way of being funded to pursue their interests, then I would have no problem with it, and I don’t think that any of you would either. Another adviser stated it quite nicely that Full is at an advantage in that she was offered this experience probably because of her position at a prestigious university and because of her previous experience on a study-abroad trip. If students had an alternative, “get-the-hell-out-of-your-home-town-and-save-yourself,” opportunity that could be monitored and funded, then I might advise them to try it and get some cool experience in before you start educating yourself for your career. In a way, our position is a bit conservative, and I think that another adviser said it correctly when she explained that some people are out for the thrills of life. I admit it. I’m here to have a crazy experience. If I could be a beatnik and travel around with next to nothing, I would (I’m considering it, actually). I’d have a small pack of belongings, a few close friends, my feet, a notebook to write in, and some adventures. No parent, nor any adviser would ever advise this path. Why? We all know that it is dangerous, insecure in terms of funding for food, healthcare, etc., and we’d lose our jobs and be ridiculed whenever an advisee struggled because of the “bad” or “risky” advice. We don’t want people around us to fail, so we advise them on the safest, most assured path, but that doesn’t mean it is the wisest, nor the most fulfilling path. To end, I also know that sometimes college is the start to a crazy, adventurous life. It is not limited to leading a conservative lifestyle, but if we are sending them off to get a degree so that they can get a job, settle down, raise kids, and die, then yes, you’re being conservative, just admit it.”
That was nothing special, but I think it has some wisdom to it. Someone should be talking to the parents and counselors of these students and at times, advising risky choices. I try, believe me, I do. Somedays I close the office door and I whisper to the student whatever honest advice I have. I rant and tell stories, and those few students leave with a little excitement in their step; they leave with a hopeful curiosity in their lives. Counselors, more often, should say, “Take a year and hitchhike across the United States. You’ll meet people and learn more about life than most will in their entire lives. Then go to college when you’re passionate and have an idea as to what you want to study. You’ll be hungrier to learn, motivated to do well in your classes and be the best at your occupation. We don’t need average accountants that hate their lives because then they perform their duties in an average way and the world takes on an average spirit.”
I know, just as I mentioned in my E-mail above that I understand that a lot of people have less resources and college may be their answer to getting out and being an exciting and happy person. I do not doubt that. But my goodness, when did advising and conservative become synonymous?