facebook on college

Okay, so I've been neglecting my blog, but that doesn't mean I haven't been writing! If you haven't already noticed, I've updated the Geek Preserve, and there's another installment already on the way, so look out for that, too.
I've been having a facebook conversation with one of my friends from the dark ages (high school!) that haven't seen or spoken to in literally 10 years. He started working right out of high school, and has been in business for himself for several years, but he's ready for a change now and was asking me about college. It was such a great question that I thought I'd share an excerpt his prompt and my response here:

He says: Tell me about your college experience! With either of the paths ahead of me I'm thinking I could easily move into a position where full-time school would be a viable option. What did you study and what did you gain?

I say: Oh, college. I highly recommend it, although I'm sure your experience will be different than mine. I studied pretty much everything they'd teach me, and I gained...everything. Going to college has impacted my life in such a profound way that it's not even measurable anymore. But most of the things I learned in college, or at least the most important things, had nothing to do with academics. I was living on my own for the first time. I learned responsibility, freedom, leadership, character. I learned who I was, and who I wanted to be, and how I thought I could accomplish that. It was freeing for me to be able to objectively examine my life and my goals, and even my personality, away from parents, family and long-term friends. I had the freedom to become myself, without being constrained by other people's long-standing perceptions of me. And I grew a lot, but I wouldn't say I went to college and did a personality 180. But, let's just say my home environment was always very difficult, and getting out of that was the best thing that could've ever happened to me. ALso in college, I learned that it's not really so much about WHAT you know, it's about THINKING. That's kind of a hidden message, though, because when you're in school, it seems very much that the emphasis in on learning material, and in a way, it is. But what they're really trying to teach you is to think for yourself, and also how to find information and assimilate it into your world, instead of just grafting it whole-cloth into your intellectual reality. Think critically, or, as one of my good friends (who is also a prof, although I never took his class) says, just "Feel free to think". And he doesn't mean the flowery, butterflies-and-roses feel THE FREEDOM to think, he means ENGAGE. YOUR. BRAIN. (IDIOT). Lots of people miss that, but it's one of the most important lessons of college. It seems really simple, but it's startling how many people go through life not thinking.

More and more, I think college is becoming an extension of HS, everybody goes to college, not just the cream of the crop. And having a BS or BA (as you mentioned) is really valuable. It's said that of 2 people, with the same abilities and experience, doing the same job, the one without the college degree will cap-out their earning potential A MINIMUM of $50K before the equally-skilled guy with a piece of paper from a university. Is that fair? No. But it's kind of a pay-to-play system we've got going on. So, my point of that last little caveat is that anybody can mindlessly sit through college, earn a degree, and be off. But it's important to cut through the crap and sift for the REAL lessons that are there, like buried treasure for people who take the time to look for them. Also, having a degree is not a ticket to a financial success, or even a job. I thought that was how it worked until I got my BA and realized that the little piece of paper means NOTHING without experience to back it up.