May 31, 2020

The best six years of my life

Ryan Tubongbanua / The Collegian

Construction and detours everywhere. Impossible parking. Parking tickets. Stressing over grades. Campus administration red tape. Hitting every red light on Shaw when you’re late to class. Annoying classmates. Annoying professors. Professors who mumble. Professors who mumble in gibberish. Increasing tuition and fees to pay for professors who mumble in gibberish.

I could have graduated last May and left this all behind. But I didn’t. Sometimes I ask myself why, a feeling that I’m sure will only become exacerbated by the time midterms roll around.

Yet I hear, “I wish I’d stayed longer,” astoundingly often from my graduated friends. It leads me to wonder why students are so eager to get out of college within a set time frame.

Learning in college goes beyond irrelevant general education classes and boring seminars attended only for the extra credit points. It goes beyond the social aspect. Ideally, it should develop your skills and intellectual capacity more intensely than any other period in life.

Why should there be a predetermined time period in which to accomplish that?

I understand some students need to graduate as soon as possible due to financial constraints. But many seem to rush out for different reasons. I knew a Smittcamp Honors student who graduated in three years. She left unused one full year of tuition and housing scholarship.

I don’t think graduating soon is necessarily bad. Some students, like my Smitty friend, come into college knowing what they want to do. But for most of us, finding that passion takes a little more time.

A hero of mine, Pat Parelli, once said of horse training, “Take the time it takes so it takes less time.” It’s an incredibly useful phrase that can be applied to darn near anything – such as education.

Once you do find your passion, you should take the time to learn it thoroughly in college. Otherwise, you may end up unprepared for what lies after graduation, frantically trying to play catch-up with your skills.

During my recent search for suitable grad schools, I’ve noticed that a lot of them don’t factor grades earned during the first two years of college into applicants’s GPAs. The schools are only interested in how you did in studies relevant to their program. According to a traditional undergraduate model, these schools are only looking at approximately two years of work.

So if your freshman and sophomore years are wasted trying to “find yourself,” you only have two years left in the traditional college timeline to develop your skills to a marketable level.

Let’s face it: Most of us don’t succeed in doing that.

When I entered Fresno State as a freshman, I was a graphic design major. I changed my major to English, then to print journalism, to business and then to digital media. I think I may have briefly been a music major at one point, also.

By the time I finally figured out what I wanted to study, I was entering my junior year. I finished my digital media degree in another year and a half, but I didn’t feel proficient in anything. After much thought (not to mention ribbing from my friends), I decided to throw tradition out the window and make the system work for me, no matter how long it took.

I picked up one of my former majors, deciding to finish my print journalism option. Even though it won’t be listed on my diploma, those writing skills are important for me to learn. I won’t be able to learn them anywhere else. Employers expect a certain level of proficiency and many don’t want to deal with on-the-job training.

Taking the extra time to hone my abilities here at school means I finally feel like I can sell myself. Suddenly I am qualified for jobs and graduate programs I know I couldn’t have applied for last year.

Isn’t that what college is for?

Heather Billings is a senior at Fresno State majoring in mass communication and journalism with emphases in digital media and print journalism.

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