College Advice From My Neighbor
Last week, after finishing school for the day at my grandparents’ house (where it’s quieter), I prepared to head home. I went into my grandparents’ garage to retrieve my bike, and I ran into my grandpa talking to the neighbor from across the street. They were both standing in the driveway, and I said “hi” hoping to avoid a conversation as I needed to get home to help make dinner. My hopes were dashed.
“So is this the new library or what?” my friendly neighbor asked.
“I guess you could say that.” I answered. He burst out laughing. Then, the inevitable question came.
“So where are you going to college?”
Great. I thought, not thinking it very great at all.
“Well I’m sorta doing college on my own.”
More laughter, and my neighbor turned to my grandpa and asked,
“Not mine,” my grandpa answered, no doubt just as confused as to why I hadn’t bugged out of town yet.
“I’m studying for what are called CLEP tests, where you study for a test in order to test-out of certain college classes.”
A look that was a mix of curiosity and surprise came over my neighbor’s face.
“Okay, testing out of classes.”
“Yeah, to save time and money, and then next year I’ll probably end up going to Ohio State or somewhere,” I continued. Trying to explain my counter-cultural approach to the point in life where you either go to college or people think you’re a loser.
“Do you know what you’ll major in?” my neighbor asked, obviously puzzled-by and interested-in my strangeness.
“No, I don’t know what I’ll major in yet. That’s why I’m just doing CLEP tests right now. I’m hoping that by next year I’ll know.” There are a lot of things I’m unsure of. College and career are two big question marks for me. I should have figured those things out by now, but I haven’t.
Maybe I am a loser after all.
“Well, I’ll tell you what, OSU is a great place. When you go to college—stay at college. Don’t come back here. Do your homework at the library there,” my neighbor said, finishing with a laugh. “Enjoy the experience.”
It was those words that immediately reminded me just how different from the world I am, and better off too. I mean, what’s so great about the college experience? Boring lectures, homework, tests…this is fun? Or do people mean going to parties and getting drunk when they refer to the “college experience?” Or perhaps there are enjoyable experiences to be had at college that don’t involve immorality, but are these experiences really worth tens of thousands of dollars? What else could I do with that money?
Wow. This is really bad advice. I thought.
“Yeah, Ohio State does have some pretty nice facilities,” I said, granting him that much (Ohio State really does have some amazing resources for students).
My neighbor went on to describe a house on campus where his son stays. He told me how nice it was, and how it had great furnishing and how it was actually less expensive than staying at a dorm.
Ohio State is only about a half-hour commute from my house, yet my neighbor was trying to give me a whole bunch of reasons why I should stay on campus, and how nice and great it is, and how it’s what his son does and how much he likes it. Why? Why is he telling me this?
He sees the world far differently than I do. He has a completely different worldview. To him, one should go to college, and stay at college. Separate from your family and get out on your own. Have an awesome, wild, and crazy time while you get your degree, then graduate and get a good job to make lots of money and get a lot of nice stuff. His view of college is no different than the vast majority of Americans. This Humanistic worldview shapes just about everyone’s motives for going to college. Even many Christians have been tricked into accepting this worldview because it’s been so ingrained in our culture.
I couldn’t help but think, I don’t want to do anything he is telling me. Why? Is it because I’m anti-social? Is it because I can’t function out in society away from my parents? No (at least I hope not). I like my family. I love my family. Going to a party with a bunch of college kids and getting drunk (or worse) is not very appealing to me, and definitely not as appealing as coming home to spend the weekend with my family.
Now, this doesn’t mean staying on campus is wrong. Not at all, I think I may even like it, but why spend the extra money? Why spend extra time in a hostile and negative environment if I don’t have to?
In our culture, many people miss out on the incredible gift of family. Many parents can’t wait until their children are out of the house, and likewise, many kids can’t wait to be rid of their parents. This is because our society is run by Humanism (which might as well be called selfishness). Kids aren’t taught to respect their parents, siblings aren’t expected to get along, much less like each other. The people we’re most rotten to is our family. Christianity takes a different view, and sees the family as an institution created by God for our benefit and His glory. It seems people never stop to think that I may actually like my family.
In Humanism, material things such as money, status, and power are the most important things. Not people. Money, status, and power become the sole reason for living. These things are just means to ultimate ends; however, Humanism gets it backwards, and these means become ends in and of themselves.
As Christians, money, status, and power should only be important in that they can help us do more good—advance God’s kingdom on Earth. Indeed, money, status, and power can be very good things in the hands of a Christian who knows how to handle them.
That being said, money, status, and power should not be our main reasons for wanting to go to college. The funny thing is, college can’t even deliver on these things. College puts you into incredible debt, and a job is not guaranteed upon graduation. College can often do more harm than good, even to the devout Humanist. This reality was recently made painfully clear to many college graduates, which resulted in the “Occupy Wallstreet” protests. What are you going to do when you have no money because of college and can’t get a job? What could be more productive than whining to the government and making nasty signs? Or maybe we should just realize that college guarantees us nothing, except empty pockets.
Yet, not going to college never even enters the mind of the average high school graduate. Going to college is just what you do, like learning to walk. Depending on who you are, what you want to do in life, and what God is calling you to, College might not be for you.
So, of course, if you’re not going to college, then you must just be blowing all your time lying around your parents’ house, right?
“Do you have a job?” my neighbor eventually asked.
“Yes, I do, but it’s non-profit,” I answered. More laughter. So I went on to explain to him about Kingdom Pen, the e-magazine I work for. Apparently your job is only as valuable as your salary, which, I guess that means my job is worth nothing. However, my neighbor was—at least somewhat—impressed. You don’t see too many 18 year-olds who are their own bosses. Why is this? Is it because there are no 18 year-olds as smart or as capable as me? No, of course not. It’s because they’re all in college, and don’t have the time or notion that starting a business is possible.
But still, I’m not making any money. So, my neighbor goes on to tell me about a job he may have for me packaging pharmaceuticals.
Hmm…is making some money packaging pharmaceuticals really worth my time?
Now, don’t get me wrong. It was very kind of him to offer me a possible job. However, I don’t think I see a career for myself packaging pharmaceuticals. There is no long-term benefit for me in doing such a job. The only point would be for me to make some cash for the short term, which is great if I need money for the short term, but I really don’t. I don’t need money as much as I need to be working on other projects and goals.
But that’s really what our culture is all about–the short-term. Go to college to enjoy the experience, rather than think about all the debt you’ll be in for next ten to twenty or more years of your life. Why is two thirds of our country overweight? Why are we obsessed with stuff? Why are we addicted to entertainment? Eat, drink, and be merry for tomorrow we die. This is the Humanistic philosophy our culture runs by. It’s the religion that’s taught in our public schools.
As I finally managed to break out of the conversation (a half hour later), I couldn’t help but think how backward that way of thinking is. My neighbor had good intentions, but following his advice would lead me into destruction, as it ultimately leads so many others who don’t know any better.
It can be easy to buy into Humanism–it’s all we’re fed in America. We have to be careful before we make our decisions. We have to reflect on our motives. “Am I doing this because it’s what is expected? Or is this really the best way for me to glorify Christ and live for Him?” For many, college is a good option. We do have to be able to support ourselves, and for some, college is a good first step. Some careers cannot be obtained without going to college. If God is calling you to be a doctor or a lawyer, you probably want to go to college. But if you’re planning on getting a job that doesn’t pay as much, maybe you want to think twice before going to college for four years and not being able to pay off your student loans.
There are many good reasons for Christians to go to college, but there are also many negatives that go along with college that few realize. Keep the ultimate goal in mind, and that’s living for Christ and becoming more like Him.
“So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” — Matthew 6:31-34
As far as college goes, make sure the positives out-weigh the negatives. And whatever you do, please don’t take the college advice from my neighbor.