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College is “what you make of it”
Or is it?
by Beracah Yankama
Director, StudentsReview

“College is what you make of it.”

There's a phrase that I've come to somewhat loathe.  I hear it so frequently that it represents to me everything that is wrong with the current application and collegiate process.

The phrase “College is what you make of it” suggests that a person is entirely personally responsible for the success or failure of their college experience, which seems like a plausible idea on the surface — after all, aren't we all responsible for everything in our lives? 

But the idea is misleading.  If we were truly personally responsible for our college experience, why do we pay to attend a college or university at all?  We could exercise our personal responsibility to create our own educations, create our own opportunities from the millions of textbooks readily available at our local libraries and avail ourselves of local experts.  Education used to be that way, with apprenticeships to local masters.  But no longer.  Now we pay.

This begs the question, “Why do we pay?” Well, we pay to have opportunities presented that would otherwise be unavailable.  We pay to have the overwhelming amount of information sorted, ordered, and presented in a framework that can be comprehended — more than our local library.  We pay to interact with the best in the field, to learn the state of the market, and to be competent for that market.  In short, We pay to have the college provide to us things that we cannot possibly provide to ourselves. 

Saying that college is what we make of it absolves the College or University of its primary responsibility — to render the educational services for which it is paid and to advertise correctly the services that it does (or does not) provide.

Currently colleges are benefitting from an “everyone should have a college education” sentiment that is a holdover from the post-WW2 1940s GI Bill, the Draft, American Dream, and achieve a better life times.  There is a strong emotional “belief” in the college education, but no well defined metrics to evaluate that education or what it provides anymore.

In the future, people (especially StudentsReview) will be looking more closely at the return that a college education actually provides.  In the meantime, if you choose to believe that “college is what you make of it”, then you should start the “making it” before you even apply — by researching and choosing the right college.

Beracah Yankama
Director, StudentsReview

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