“We’re not hipsters and bedraggled art students”

Name: Heather

Major: Undecided (but something in the sciences!)

Class: 2016

Home State: Illinois

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What were your main reasons for going to college? 

My big reason was because the alternatives didn’t look so good in the long run. Half of the kids from my high school were going on to college education of some sort, and the rest were getting ready to work and get married as soon as possible because they couldn’t afford college or didn’t score high enough on exams.

On a brighter note, I love to learn and then apply what I’ve learned. I feel college is my reward for all the long hours and excruciating work I’ve put into my education in the past. Why turn down the chance to continue learning?

How much of an influence did your parents/peers/teachers have on the schools you chose to apply to?

My parents were fine with almost anywhere I wanted to apply to, as long as I was actually interested in the colleges. They have always placed a high value on education. My high school counselor tried persuading me to apply to the same “big” schools as my friends because that’s what was expected of kids in the gifted program. He ended up being mildly disappointed that I found out about a liberal arts school; it didn’t fit his image of where the “neo-intelligentsia” he was advising should go to learn.

Where else did you apply?

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, and Mizzou. I might of also applied to Marquette. Either that or they just really wanted my money me.

What do you see as benefits of going to college?

As I mentioned earlier, college is the reward for all the hard work done in high school. You get to choose your classes and truly map out the direction of your future. College prepares your for a career while nourishing your various interests and exposing your to an abundance of different people and ideas. At least that’s true of Beloit.

What are some negatives of going to school?

In regards to Beloit specifically, some people I know don’t approve of my going here. Either they equate “liberal arts” with images of hipsters and bedraggled art students, or they view the college as being too nice, not as down-to-earth as a university or a few years of pure work. I am still me; I’m not a pothead and I’m not an elitist for going here. I think the disapproval on both sides is ridiculous.

Also, and this is definitely more of a personal thing than a universal truth, I don’t always like the unspoken tension between different political views (Democrat vs. everyone else) and different beliefs (very secular vs. very religious) here on campus. It gets stressful at times being someone who is neither here nor there. We’re all attending Beloit to live and learn with the same passion – we don’t have to pretend there’s such division between us all, and yet every now and then this division rears its ugly head.

Did you consider a gap year? Why or why not?

No. A gap year wasn’t even an option for me. Even if it had been, I wouldn’t have taken one. I would have just bummed around, applied for jobs and been turned down, etc. Not good for the psyche at all.

Now that you’re here at Beloit College, do you think you would change anything about your choices regarding your education?

No! In fact, anytime I receive a letter from a friend going to a university (yes, some of us still handwrite letters!) and I hear about their lecture halls filled with 300+ students all clamoring for the professor’s attention, I say a little thank-you to God for being here and not elsewhere. I can’t imagine being in classes that size. Plus, every class I’ve been in has incorporated hands-on work in conjunction with lectures; I don’t have to wait until my junior or senior year to apply what I’ve learned.

How do you think you will use your education later in life?

I’m already on my way to using it! This summer, I’ll be volunteering at a local museum to assist with collections – cataloguing, organizing, display, all that good nerdy stuff! Whatever major I end up in, it’ll most likely require some graduate school. From there, who knows? I like to joke that I’ll end up as the most well-educated bartender someday when I can’t find any jobs. Then I could apply my growing knowledge of anthropology, psychology, biology, etc. to everyone I make drinks for – liberal arts in practice, eh? But I don’t honestly think that’ll be the case.

What’s your favorite dessert?

German Chocolate Cake! But only if it’s fresh.

Commencement Speeches = The Ultimate Closure?

Commencement speeches can be the illustrious closure to four years spent in libraries and lectures. They can give guidance for the years ahead and fill an excited graduate’s heart with courage and passion. Other times, they put everyone to sleep.

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David Foster Wallace’s Commencement speech at Kenyon College in 2005 has to be one the best I have ever read. My jealousy for the people in the front row that day is infinite.

Wallace talks about liberal arts schools as places that teach you how to think about the people around you. It encourages you to acknowledge that your reality is not the only reality and that you are not the center of the universe. College can push you out of your comfort zone, thereby rocking your universe centered on you, and forcing you to experience other ways of being in the world which makes you nicer.

Who doesn’t want a world filled with very aware, very nice people?

Here’s a link to Wallace’s speech (long but so worth reading) and a New York Times list of the best commencement speeches ever given!

Answering the ‘So What?’ Questions

Name: Rita Bouwens

College: Beloit College

Major: Anthropology

Class: 2016

Home State: Michigan

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 What were your main reasons for going to college? 

To continue my education and to begin it, ultimately. Learning is never finished.

How much of an influence did your parents/peers/teachers have on the schools you chose to apply to?

Not much at all. My parents pretty much let me have free reign to research schools and I didn’t apply to the same schools as my peers.

Where else did you apply?

University of Michigan, University of Chicago, Hope College, Calvin College, Grand Valley State, Aquinas College, Connecticut College, Bates College, Bowdoin College, Trinity College, Wheaton College, Earlham College, Illinois Wesleyan, Knox College, Kalamazoo College, The College of Wooster, Kenyon College, Oberlin College, Grinnell College, Macalester College, Denison College, and Dickinson College.

What do you see as benefits of going to college?

One is able to articulate oneself better and answer the “so what?” questions. Also, “unpacking” complex concepts.

What are some negatives of going to school?

It’s not cheap.

Did you consider a gap year? Why or why not?

I didn’t, mostly because I was ready to start college and I wanted to get it underway.

Now that you’re here at Beloit College, do you think you would change anything about your choices regarding your education?

I wouldn’t. I love it here and I think it’s the perfect fit for me.

How do you think you will use your education later in life?

I’d love to be an anthropologist and study mermaids. I’m only half-joking with the second part.

Also, what’s your favorite dessert?

Plain popcorn or apples with peanut butter

A Jumping Off Point

Name: Lena

Major: International Relations

Class: 2015

Home State: Oregon

College: Mount Holyoke College

Malyszko/Mount Holyoke Photo

What were your main reasons for going to college?

To further my education, and to be able to expand my world view.

How much of an influence did your parents/peers/teachers have on
the schools you chose to apply to?

There was a small influence, but there was a rule that if I wanted to apply to any on the East Coast, I would have to apply to the same number on the West Coast.

Where else did you apply?

University of Oregon, University of San Francisco, University of Redlands, University of Denver, American University, Goucher College

What do you see as benefits of going to college?

Being able to meet influential people, either who are influential now, or they will be influential in the future.

What are some negatives of going to school?

I’m super far from my family, and I feel like this is a bit like high school all over again – all-girls high school, women’s college. IR is also a super time-consuming and stressful major, no matter what people say about it.

Did you consider a gap year? Why or why not?

I did, but I knew if I took one, I’d never make it back to school. I ended up taking one term off and going to Europe for school and to travel instead.

Do you think you would change anything about your choices regarding your education?

If I were to go back, I’d apply to a few more schools in the Midwest/Central region. Specifically in Chicago.

How do you think you will use your education later in life?

I plan on Law School and doing something with that in the future, other than
becoming a Lawyer, as I find that dull. Who knows though? It could totally
change.

Favorite band? That’s a toss-up. It’s Mumford and Sons, Maroon 5, or
Macklemore. I’m leaning towards Macklemore.

In Search of Stories

Around the world, people spend a lot of time in school. We begin our lives in school and become adults in school. However, we don’t spend much time thinking about why we’re here. On campus we get caught up in the weekday whirl of classes, endless hours in the library, and weekends of days that start at 11 and nights that never really end. That’s why I think it’s important that we stop to think why we (or our parents) give lifetime’s savings to go out and become independent in the world. How does school help us achieve this goal and what do we hope it will teach us that we can’t learn at home?

These questions can’t be explained by theories or statistics on success, but they can be with through stories. Over the next three weeks I will interview a lovely smattering of Beloit College students in the hopes of gleaning some insight into the liberal arts education system attempting to prepare us all for “the real world.”

If you would like to be featured, let me know!