You gain more in college than just a degree

By Alex Cocanig, Columnist

The end of the school year is a hectic time for everyone. Between studying for exams, picking next year’s schedule and making living arrangements, it’s easy to get distracted by the allure of summer, which is only a couple weeks away.

Summer is also significant for those of us who will be graduating and not returning to campus in the fall. It’s a stepping stone in our lives where we will decide our future plans, whether they be attending even higher education, entering the workforce or for increasingly more students, taking time to figure things out.

With all the possibilities that lay ahead, it’s important to reflect on our own college experiences. As a transfer student who came in as a junior, my four semesters at the University seemed to fly by, but it was nonetheless important, fun and undoubtedly a learning experience for me, both inside and outside the classroom.

While the material we learn for our majors in class is unquestionably important, and the sole reason for even going to college, I’d like to dwell on those learned experiences outside the classroom, that as a graduating senior, I feel greatly supplemented my experience here and taught me things that I wouldn’t have otherwise learned in lecture.

Being the first of my immediate family to attend a university, my parents and I worked tirelessly to get all the logistical issues that come with going away to college figured out. Experiences such as searching for an ideal (and affordable) apartment, learning the campus and its surrounding area, as well as the bus system, and even little things like cooking and budgeting my time were all of utmost importance in making my time at the University a success.

Professors won’t tell you how to properly shop for food, how to socially adapt in a new place or even how to pay a utility bill. Instead, these very real tasks are something that a college student takes away from his or her experience here, in addition to an academic education.

I can distinctly remember the beginning of my first few days down here. My parents had just finished moving me into an apartment and I was so excited to start my life as a student. I greatly looked forward to the lack of parental oversight and the ability to govern my time as I saw fit, without having to answer to anyone except myself and, to a lesser extent, my roommates.

At first it was a very liberating experience, but as classes began to pick up, I realized that my responsibilities had not by any means been left at my suburban home 100 miles away like I thought, but rather took new shapes in the forms of studying, writing papers and doing assigned readings.

In addition to the most difficult and time-consuming classes I had experienced as a student yet, responsibilities outside the classroom seemed to keep recurrently piling up. The pressure to find a job, get socially involved, keep up with things at home and stay physically active all while striving for the best grades possible are challenges a newly free-spirited college student like myself didn’t seem to anticipate until actually faced with them.

If I had not come here in the fall of 2014, I certainly wouldn’t know all the academic knowledge that I have since acquired, but I also might not have learned how to cook for myself daily or how to find and move into my own living quarters, among countless other things that came up on a daily basis.

It is the combination of all these responsibilities and how one learns to deal with them effectively and beneficially that, in my opinion, go hand-in-hand with an earned degree to achieve success in life after college.

Alex is a senior in LAS.

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