My Thoughts on Higher Education
Almost every day for the past several weeks, I have walked a lap around the campus at Southeastern. There is something special about a campus: the open grass and the well-kept (and seemingly ancient) trees, brick sidewalks that cross and connect different, and many times colonial-styled, buildings on the grounds of whatever school it is. I love it all! I take the walks here to get moving a little bit, but also to enjoy the scenery and get my mind on the Lord. Looking at nature on a beautiful campus is one way I love to thank the Lord for his creation and what he is doing in my life. Usually, a higher-education institution has space like this on their campus, where you can walk and take in the views.
But the views on the campus "yard" or "quad" or "grounds" are a small part of the value of college or grad school. The overall worth of experience in higher education is, well, high. And I want to be an advocate for the college experience.
I say college experience on purpose because time in school is about more than a degree to put on your resume. It is about more than just getting a job. But degrees aren't typically seen this way. Each college course is a box to check on the way to a better job opportunity. A degree in hand is worth a few thousand more a year. I get it. If a job is what you need, and the best ones require a degree, the degree will set you free.
But a university is about more than the knowledge you gain. It is about the experience. It is about the formation of your character and maturity. It is about the community that is gathered around the quest for knowledge applied to living. It is about the relationships you build with experts in their field and the mentorship they provide. The college, seminary, or university should be an experience. That is what makes going valuable.
We don't look up to experts like we used to. Anyone with a loud voice and a YouTube channel is considered reputable. But on university campuses, there are people who have put time and energy and study into their research, teaching and craft. Their experience in their field qualifies them to teach and mentor students who would follow their path. Not every expert is the same. But we should look to them for wisdom and guidance as to how to learn, and what to learn. They have built this house before. Take advantage of their blueprints.
Higher education is and has been changing. Especially with the advent of online degrees. While online education is popular and serves a good purpose, I am an advocate for in-person time at the school. It is an experience that molds and shapes us into mature people, not just informed graduates. Knowledge might grant us graduation, but the growth of virtue, character, and hard work will make us more qualified than simply knowing stuff.
My own college experience had its highs and lows. Graduate school is about as good as I can imagine. But all my time on a campus of higher-education has taught me more than information, stretching and growing and challenging me to be a better Christ follower, a better husband and father, and a better worker. It is a blessing to sit in a classroom and not only love the subject and learn from it, but also to look at the person teaching and think "I want to be like you." The on-campus experience of higher education provides that opportunity uniquely.
Don't think of college or grad school as a waste of time or a necessary evil holding you back from starting your career. Your time on campus isn't just job preparation. It is a unique season of focused growth in knowledge, wisdom and maturity. Don't focus on simply being a qualified worker, but aim to gain on campus the qualities of a good person. Aim to look more like Christ, and invest in relationships with professors and other students who will work with you to sharpen each other, to learn to live together.
I am thankful for a season of more learning with professors I want to be like someday. I am thankful to be studying, reading, and writing alongside other students who are striving to make the most of their experience. It is a gift from the Lord. I get to think and read and write about the most important questions in life each day--I am so thankful for that.
I'll take these thoughts with me this afternoon on my stroll around campus.