The University encourages students to fail, and we should

By Fred Shoaff, Columnist

People pick colleges based on the wrong criteria.

When seniors in high school embark on their adventure through college visits and applications, they often desire some of the comforts of home and the ability to succeed in this new domain. However, not many look for another positive factor that sets apart good colleges from great colleges: Does it set you up to fail?

University of Illinois set us up to be uncomfortable and fail since before orientation even started. And despite how difficult it is to adapt to, the University’s evident effort to give not success, but failure, is what makes the investment of time and money worth it.

They can’t give us new friends to make the transition easier, or the answers to the tests or even a mindset that will promote success. The factors determining our lives outside of the classroom are left up to us. And because we’re human, a common tendency is having no idea what our plan is.

Each of the marketing stunts the University pulls to flaunt the enjoyment and happiness of attending here are all lies. The leaders of this school don’t want us to strut through four years with a smile. They have the audacity to make us labor through long nights, endure terrifying situations of living with strangers and expect us to be able to learn how to live a professional life all by ourselves — before kicking us out in eight short semesters.

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And frankly, we should thank our captors for the suffering. It’s not Stockholm Syndrome; it’s recognizing tough love.

No human will argue with the idea that college is difficult and tends to make us feel a way we are not too pleased with. I mean, we aren’t expected to be successful here since before we applied; less than half of the University’s applicants actually get into this heavenly hell.

But once we’re allowed in, the friendliness that lured us is withdrawn, and we’re let off our leash to learn our own lessons.

The struggles imparted onto us aren’t just limited to the classroom, but it’s where the failing mentality starts. Because the University is well-run, it manages few things about students’ lives and endeavors. It is effective because students are forced to run their own show.

As a result, college is a weird paradox.

The paradox continues when the school forces students to pay so much for the opportunity to attend classes, but it then emphasizes that true learning will come outside of the class. The opportunity, but not obligation, to go out and experience the intimidating career fairs or time-consuming student organizations is the University’s way of giving us a choice: Avoid the experiences and fail to learn, or take part and learn to fail.

A bad school would teach everyone what to learn and how to do it. Bad schools are limited to the lecture and never extrapolate beyond that. I guess lectures are comfortable for some people.

But through the long nights when we challenge beliefs and question if it’s worth it, the true success is earned. But this success wouldn’t be possible if it didn’t come after the dare to fail.

And luckily for us, Illinois will dare us for as long as we allow it to.

Fred is a freshman in media.

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