Posts

What I Learned At My Reunion

This year I attended major milestone reunions for both college and high school.  Here’s what I learned:

1. Almost all the women look really good and have clearly been working hard at it. You go, girls.

2. Some of my classmates do really interesting things. Shout-outs to David Pogue, the tech guru for the New York Times who keeps the world informed and amused about the ever-changing landscape of new gadgets, Lydia Vagts, who conserves some of humanity’s most important paintings for future generations to enjoy, and Barney Schecter, whose new book on George Washington’s travels is just plain awesome.

3. Facebook has been an amazing tool for re-uniting and updating a dispersed set of classmates, and bringing together people who never would have hung out in the lunchroom or the dorm.

4. The most important thing we learned how to do in high school was write.

5. The most important thing we learned how to do in college was research.

6. I don’t know how we could have done items 4 and 5 if item 3 had existed when we were in school. I pity the kids who are now managing their Facebook profiles and Twitter feeds while trying to do real thinking.

7. Luckily, they can get caught up on the latest tools or gather a new artistic perspective or get a totally new insight into our first president thanks to the people in item 2.

8. And if they are women, they will look great when they’re my age.

What I Learned in College

,

The debate rages on as to whether all students should go to college. Graduation rates vary widely by state, from an abysmal 22% (Alaska) to a more promising 69% (Massachusetts) [NCHEMS]. So that means somewhere between one third and three quarters of college attendees don’t graduate with a degree.  As The New York Times recently pointed out in the article “Plan B: Skip College,” that’s a lot of money to end up without a degree. College isn’t for everyone. More vocational training and 2-year degrees should be available.

That said, I’m still a fan of college.  And since my 25th Reunion is fast approaching, I’ve ruminated on several reasons why.

  1. Time to Grow Up.  College gives you wide berth and time to mature. Honestly, who is ready for a career at 17? ‘Nuf said.
  2. Roommates.  Dealing with strangers up close and personal is a serious challenge, especially for those of us who grew up without siblings. But it’s an ideal course in inter-personal relations and negotiation. Not to mention setting boundaries.
  3. Professors. Learning how to navigate the power relationship of professor-student, particular in the smaller courses where one sees them as individuals, is an excellent primer in dealing with clients or bosses in the future.
  4. Lack of Sleep. Surmounting an often self-induced lack of sleep to deliver a term paper or passing exam grade is excellent preparation for working motherhood or fatherhood. There is nothing like a baby with an ear ache all night to make participating in a morning meeting a serious feat of super-human strength.
  5. Friendships. There are some friends you just know are there, no matter what, and many of these bonds are fired in the furnace of collegiate life.
  6. Extra-Curriculars. There’s nothing more extravagant and wonderful than the smorgasbord of activities offered at college. From the college radio station and newspaper to the medieval club and frisbee team, these choices offer lifelong memories, friendships, and ongoing interests.
  7. Connections. OK, for those of you who yearn for me to cover some “practical” side of college life: I have thousands of connections at my fingertips through my college alumni office as well as my own friends. And yes, connections help in life and work.
  8. Research.  If you don’t know how to learn something new, then you’re stuck recycling the old. It’s amazing how many people don’t know how to find out something, even with the crutch of Google and Wikis. College teaches you how to research information, and more importantly, how to assess the veracity and biases of your sources.
  9. Ideas.  College is not just about book learning or a list of facts to absorb or “career preparation.” It is about the world of ideas and the people who have them, including you. Engaging in the world of ideas is important preparation for life, promoting civic participation and a richer life, regardless of career.
  10. I couldn’t think of a 10th benefit of college, but I’ll bet you can!