Posted by: sailingspirit | April 11, 2011

Saving You Strife: College Tips pt.8

#8  Value for the Academic Dollar

I’ll “throw my two cents in,” in case you care, mostly because I have a hunch my vote will differ from most.  But take it as you will.

Colleges/Universities are businesses first and foremost, not educational services.  Aside from a good many professors, no one at the campus gives a rip about your student’s education.  Counter-intuitive, but true.  They aim to get the most prestige and profit for the least amount of effort, and will regularly put the squeeze on profs and frosh’s alike to do it.  Thus, they operate much like a factory, trying to process in great numbers using the same molds and forms over and over again.  So, the only one who will look out for your best value is you.  If the one-size-fits-all doesn’t fit you, don’t let them B.S. you (ha ha! no pun intended) into thinking you don’t have other options.  You always have options.  You are a consumer, and you vote via your spending.  If at any time you don’t think you’re gettting a good value, get out.  You don’t owe them any loyalty and they won’t remember you after you leave.  For example, I went to 5 different campuses at 4 different schools in 3 different states for 10 years straight and officially, I only have a bachelor’s degree to show for it.  Oh I had started my Ph.D. alright, but I didn’t spend enough money at any one grad school to buy another diploma.  With $150,000 in student debt and NASA shutting down last fall, you can imagine how I feel about that!  But, I did get a fabulous education.  So, what I would recommend for metriculators today are a few things: figure out what you actually need to learn and what is fluff (skip the fluff until the economy recovers and you’re stable enough to round-out your education); attend a tech shool, community college or similar feeder for as much of your undergrad as you can, because the basics are the basics are the basics and they’ll be the same anywhere so don’t pay more for the same education (big schools would have you taught by TAs anyway); don’t register as an out-of-state student unless your life depends on it, because they’ll charge you as much as double for the exact same experience; if your student has the chops to go to a prestigious school, wait until grad school because the quality is largely wasted at the bachelor level but important at the grad level; do as much to set yourself apart as you can, like joining a prof’s research team or the cement canoe design contests; if you actually care about learning, hope to graduate sane and relatively healthy, and would like to think you’d have a little fun along the way, SLOW DOWN.  What they tell you is “normal” is not normal, it’s average, meaning if you do that you’ll get mediocre results.  Take the minimum load (usually 12 credits per term), study well enough to get better grades, sleep and take care of your body properly (I can’t tell you how critical sleep is), and balance your work with fun action like no-tackle flag frisbee football tournaments.  Or swing dancing.  No employer is going to count and compare the number of semesters you took vs. another student, but he/she will notice you look relatively normal and the other guy looks like a walking corpse.  No one wants to share a cubicle with a creepy corpse.

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