College: A Guide
How to Think about Education
When a person seriously devotes themselves to some form of training or
schooling, the result of their work is knowledge. If a person
utilizes that knowledge in a meaningful way, it may eventually become
wisdom. Knowledge and wisdom should always be the goal of a
person seeking an education; but what is an education, really?
To figure this out we need to first examine whether education is a product. It is a commonly held belief that colleges sell education, but this is incorrect. Colleges sell courses. A course - as a series of readings, assignments, discussions, and activities - is a product with no intrinsic value. In order for a course to have value, the student must engage with the material and use the provided exercises to practice their skills.
In that sense, education is a form of engaged practice which results in the student becoming knowledgeable about a subject.
How to Think about College
People go to college to buy a degree. This degree is proof that a
student has completed a series of courses and, as we learned above,
these courses are meant to provide the student with an opportunity to
engage and practice with a subject. In theory, this means that every
student is educated. However, not every education is equal. Some students
do not put in the effort required to master a subject. Some teachers do
not put in the effort required to engage a student.
As a result, teachers have come up with a way to grade students, and students have come up with a way to grade teachers. Students and teachers should pay attention to these grades, but they should not allow them to become more important than learning.
How to Think about Colleges
Some colleges have better reputations than others. For the most part,
this fact is unimportant. Instead, one should consider the following:
Size: The size of a college campus is unimportant. However, the number of students allowed in a class is very important, and smaller class sizes are almost always better.
Teachers: You will learn more from teachers you like and respect. Try to learn about your teachers. Speak to them, and see what they can offer you in your educational experience.
Expense: Attending college is expensive, but the amount of money you spend should not be ridiculous. If you find yourself thinking about how many years it will take you to repay student loans, you should look at other options.
Location: Your roots are important. Therefore, it is usually better to be near family and friends. However, at times it is also important to leave your home. This is especially true when you have the opportunity to learn something new. Think very carefully about where you are in your life.
How to Think about College Degrees
For this example, we will examine the Associate of Arts and Assoiate of
Science options offered by
North Idaho College
in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho. This is the school I attended, although I spent
most of my time in their outreach classrooms and not on the main campus.
Please examine the following tables. These list the various Majors -- areas of study you would like to concentrate on -- for both the Associate of Arts and Associate of Science degrees. If one sounds interesting to you, place a check in the little box. To clear the checks, simply hit the CLR button.
If you click on the name of the major it will take you to North Idaho College's catalog entry for that specific major. There you can find information about what courses are required to receive your degree, as well as the expected outcome of studying that specific topic.
Associate of Arts Transfer Programs (22)
|American Indian Studies||Open||5||5||123|
|American Sign Language Studies||Open||9||0||123|
|Education (Elementary or Middle School)||Open||10||2||257|
|Biology, Botany, and Zoology||Open||9||0||160|
|Forestry, Wildlife, Range Management||Open||12||0||253|
|Nursing (Registered Nursing)||Limited||20||0||123|
|Physics / Astronomy||Open||9||0||370|
|Political Science and Pre-Law||Open||3||6||123|
|Pre-Microbiology / Medical Technology||Open||11||0||170|
Now, you may be wondering what the other columns are for. Allow me to
Enrollment: In this case, Open enrollment simply means that you are not required to fill out a special application to declare this major. If your chosen major is marked Limited, you may have to wait for a spot to open before you are allowed to take the required classes. Speak to an advisor and factor this into your college plans.
Non-Gem Core: This is the number of classes you will take that will directly relate to your major area of study. Most degrees will require you to take General Education (Gem) courses such as Writing, Speech, and Sciences. While these classes will make you a better person, they often have very little to do with your major. Knowing how much of your degree will be devoted to your major is an important factor. In general, the higher this number, the more specific your degree will be.
Electives: Electives are classes you get to take that do not have to have anything to do with your degree. Generally speaking, if this number is low then you have a higher chance of experiencing burnout. However, if this number is too high you might not learn enough about your major to be considered proficient.
Math: I like math, but I understand that not everyone does. This number is the lowest level math class you can take and still graduate. You can read descriptions of these math classes on this page.
How to Succeed in College
College is difficult. However, succeeding in college is fairly simple.
First, you must approach all of your classes as if they are periods of intense, engaged study. Use tests or quizzes as a way to gauge your understanding of the material, and always strive to become better.
Second, you must learn to identify the three types of teachers:
Easy: Often very highly rated teachers are simply easy teachers. In many cases their their subject is not difficult, or they are simply not passionate about it.
Good: A good teacher may or may not be highly rated, but they are generally approachable and easy to speak to. Often their passion for their topic is tempered by their desire to see students succeed.
Hard: A hard teacher will typically be very poorly rated. This is a shame, as sometimes the difficulty of their class is the result of their intense passion for a subject.
Of course it is best to have good teachers, but you should not ignore the others. Sometimes it is great to be challenged by a hard teacher, especially when the subject is something you would like to truly master. At other times, an easy teacher can help you avoid burnout. Find balance.
Lastly, do not forget why you are in college. Think often about your goals and what it is you wish to achieve in your life.
How to Think Beyond College
Colleges design educational experiences for you. Therefore, it is typically
easier to obtain knowledge inside the classroom. Some people, however,
do not have the will or the means to attend college and they must find
their own way to pursue an education. There are two main ways to do this:
Experience is applied practice. When we experience different situations, we learn what things do or do not work in a specific context. This not only allows us to gain knowledge, it also fosters a sense of situational authority which can lead to wisdom. However, you should keep in mind that not all experience is helpful. Reflect often on whether your experiences are helping or hindering your understanding of a topic.
Reading is a slightly easier way to gain knowledge in a topic, but if it is not combined with experience it rarely results in wisdom. If you have decided to learn through reading, you may have noticed that it is difficult to pick a place to start. In the following table you will find the areas of study offered by North Idaho College listed along with the sections of your local library that are devoted to this topic. This is not meant to be a comprehensive list, but you should consider it a good place to start.
|Area of Study||Dewey Decimal||Library of Congress|
|American Indian Studies||897, 979||PM , F 786-951|
|American Sign Language Studies||419||HV, P 117-117.5|
|Anthropology||301, 390-399||H 1-99, GT, GR|
|Art||700-759||N, NB, NC, ND|
|Biology, Botany, and Zoology||570-599||QH, QK, QP, QR|
|Chemistry||540-549, 660-669||QD, TP|
|Child Development||155.4, 372||LB, BF|
|Communications||302, 384||GN, HE|
|Computer Science||004-006||QA 75.5-76.95|
|Education (Elementary or Middle School)||370-372||L-LC|
|Engineering||620-629||T, TJ, TK|
|Environmental Science||540-599, 630-639||QB, QC, QD, QE|
|Forestry, Wildlife, Range Management||570-599||QB, QC, QD, QE|
|Geology||550-569||QB, QC, QE|
|History||930-999||CC, DU, E, F|
|Journalism||070-079||AI, AN, Z|
|Music||780-789||M, ML, MT|
|Philosophy||100-199||B, BC, BD, BF|
|Public Relations||070-079, 650||AI, AN, HF, Z|
|Nursing (Registered Nursing)||610-619||WY|
|Physical Education||610-619, 793-799||WY, GV|
|Physics / Astronomy||510-539||QB|
|Political Science and Pre-Law||320-329||JA|
|Pre-Medical||610-619||W, WA, WX, WZ|
|Pre-Microbiology / Medical Technology||576||QH, QR|
|Pre-Nutrition||610-619, 641.1||WY, TX|
|Pre-Physical Therapy||610-615||WY, GV|
|Sociology||300-307||H, GF, GN|
- Subjects marked 000-999 are too broad to define.
- Subjects marked ASK do not directly translate. Please ask a librarian.
Information written and compiled by MD, Fabled Farthing, 2020.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.