The institution of college has been put into doubt lately. Many people nowadays believe that it’s a waste of time and money, that you can grab a perfectly stable career without ever stepping foot in a university. I admit, these people make some very valid points and at times I find myself wondering if the four years I spent at this campus were worth it. But even though the hurdles leading up to and costs of college are higher than ever, I still think it undoubtedly has its value.

College has given me more than just a bachelor’s degree (though I have to say the statistics on college graduates making 80 percent more than high school graduates does make me happy). I believe that this institution possesses some certain intrinsic value. Learning for the sake of learning, for one. Because of my time here, I’ve become a much more well-rounded, critical-thinking individual. Everything from what I should buy at the grocery store to which candidate I should vote for has been shaped by what I have learned in college. It has supplied experiences and a perspective on the world that, at least for me, really couldn’t have been found anywhere else.

UCSB also gave me a chance to break out of the tight grip of my upbringing. Coming from a small backwater town in the middle of the southern California desert, I got the opportunity to experience the world as I never had before, complete with both its crazy freedoms and crushing responsibilities. People from, say, the Bay Area or Los Angeles may think this is insane, but many of us had to drive 45 minutes just to get to the closest movie theater. While in my hometown my friends and I would wrack our brains to figure out what to do on a Saturday night, here it seems I meet unbelievable people and travel to amazing places almost on a weekly basis.

Of course, I recognize that college isn’t for everyone. Some people’s lives just pull them in other directions and sometimes it’s for the better. We’ve all heard of rags-to-riches success stories of kids dropping out of high school and becoming billionaires, but I’m not Bill Gates or Mark Zuckerberg. Success stories like these are one-in-a-million and I view college as a necessity, not only to land a good career, but for personal development as well. I’ve matured and learned lesson after lesson during my four years here. But it surely wasn’t without effort. Undeniably, college is what you make it. This place simply gives you the chance to grow; you have to take those opportunities for yourself.

I am now more prepared for the future than I ever was before. And prepared for what exactly? It’s hard to say. Probably, most of all, for the unknown. Unlike most of my “hard” science friends, I don’t have a long term career immediately lined up for me after I graduate. And strangely, I am okay with that. I want a few more years to discover where my place in this world is. The walls and books of this institution have equipped me with “how” to think more than just “what,” and armed with that knowledge, I move on to yet another stage in my life.

Some call college a “fake” stage in life, but I believe this was more than just a period in between sheltered adolescent living and the “real world.” The lessons learnt here, both in and out of class, were very real, and I will take them all the way through my working life to my grave.
Jay Grafft sees no apparent reason for calling college an unnecessary burden.

A version of this article appeared in the Thursday, May 29, 2014 print edition of the Daily Nexus.
Views expressed on the Opinion page do not necessarily reflect those of the Daily Nexus or UCSB. Opinions are submitted primarily by students