Deciding on what you really want from college is a personal decision. It comes down to two major areas of fulfillment when one considers what they want from the experience. They are the fulfillment of current social needs and preparation for future self-support.

Fulfillment of current social needs is easy to figure out. It’s all about having a good time at school and it is easy to do. For many students, the recent status of adulthood combined with time away from mom and dad in an environment of like-minded young people creates a synergy of fun. It is what society refers to as “the best years of your life”, so it should be of no surprise that students treat it as such.

It’s easy enough to celebrate “the best years of your life”. What is challenging is following a line of education that can prepare you for a job in the future that has not yet been thought of. Thoughts about life after college tend to be serious because of the unknowable nature of the future, while thoughts about life during college tend to be easy and carefree. It’s always easy to push aside the feelings that make you uncomfortable and think only of current satisfaction, but this is dangerous for college students.

You need to be in college for the right reasons. Too often, students end up there for the right intentions, but due to a lack of vision or preparation end up going the wrong way. They end up paying for a college experience they thought that was valuable, only to find out later that they really paid far too much to party for four or five years. College students need to stay focused on future needs, and go to a school that can truly fulfill them.

Why do you study so hard? Playing a game of connect the dots is simple enough. But imagine for a moment that this game of connect the dots was played on a one square mile piece of paper. It would be frustrating and seemingly impossible to complete from your perspective (not to mention carrying the giant pencil needed to complete it.) When we challenge a young person to study hard for a college degree, they are in many ways playing an enormous game of connect the dots. Each individual subject studied, every test taken and every term paper written are equivalent to the many dots in need of connection. But from the student’s perspective, they cannot see where all this work is really going.

There is a disconnect as the student may be working terribly hard on subjects that appear to have no bearing on career opportunities. A failure to perceive future value of gained knowledge leads to a regression of motivation for future learning. Just having a good time in college is instantly more appealing, and hangs as a constant distraction from what is really important: the future.

The below video is from the 2005 Stanford Graduation ceremony. In it, Steve Jobs talks about his college experience. Now, as some of you may know, Steve Jobs is one of the most successful people to never graduate college. But he offers insight into his “college drop-in” experience and how it made a huge impact on his development of Apple computers. He explains his take on why college is also like a game of connect the dots as well.

Steve Jobs recognized that college was a means to an end that he could skip just to get to the end. That took a combination of self-made vision and talent with an acknowledgment of luck. He used what education he needed to get the real results required. College was not a distraction for him, it was simply an opportunity to learn. That motivation to learn more did not require years of schooling to master. He found a way to connect the dots of his own education.

When considering your choice of college, ignore the fun distractions easily laid before you. They will be available 24 hours a day, seven days a week while in school. Focus on what the college experience can do for your future so that the best years of your life can extend far after graduation.

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