College gets better with age

College is better a second time around, when you know what you are passionate about and what you want to do.

by Quynh Nguyen

For many, going to college fails to help us find out what we really want to do in life. After a couple of years of searching for one’s point in coming to college, many of us give up, tune out and go through the motions of being a student just so we can graduate with the minimum amount of effort possible.

A very lucky few find their passions while they’re in college and pursue that track accordingly. But a great number of us feel completely inexperienced and unready to enter the working world after college, mostly because we have no idea what our passions are.

I am all for working immediately after high school to try one’s hand at life without a degree. It’s roughly the same experience any recent college graduate goes through – listless job searching, frequent rejections and feelings of inadequacy in the job market.

After months of job searching, they finds a job, likely an entry-level position where they’re treated like the youngest thing that anyone has ever seen in that organization.

Through lousy jobs, good jobs, so-so jobs and boring jobs do important, passion-defining realizations come to surface. Realizations like, “I want to be my own boss” or “I want to do something important, not just paper-pushing to make money” come to mind.

Not to say that you cannot have work and volunteer experience during college, but it’s nearly impossible to discover passion while working part-time and going to school full-time.

Like most students, I used to lack focus for what I really wanted to do. All I had focus for was simply to get my college degree. I had expected a great deal of privilege to come with a degree, including automatic employment after graduation and wages greater than $10 an hour. FYI, those expectations are complete hogwash.

After a few nasty work experiences, I found out what I liked and did not like doing in life. I also found out the ways that college courses can apply in real life, ways to use my knowledge to solve problems and educate others.

The greatest thing I learned during my stint in “the real world” was the importance of passion. It’s not enough to just make money and pay your bills. If working eight hours sucked out all of my energy, it left the other 16 hours of my day in bad shape. Not to mention it gets boring and awful really, really fast.

If you notice the older students in class, they’re focused like a laser, do their assignments without whining and have clear ambitions with what they’re doing. They’ve been through sluggish work experiences and are using a college education to create change in their lives, and know how to turn a degree into success.

These older students also know how to study effectively, have more effective time management and often can sit still and listen to lecture without whispering to their buddies, texting in class or falling asleep. Above all, they know the cost of their education and do their best to squeeze every drop of value from it. It is of little surprise that they’re the darlings of many professors.

If you don’t know what your passion is, don’t fret. Take some time off and start working just to see what life without college is like. You’re more likely to find your passion for things in the real world, rather than in lecture. And if you find your passion, come back to college. College is better a second time around, when you know what you want to do.

Quynh Nguyen welcomes comments at [email protected]