A post that Adina Edelman wrote recently on LinkedIn sparked some powerful memories of my college journey nearly 60 years ago, when I was a terribly young and naïve 18-year-old who just didn’t “get” it.
My high school grades were decent, but nothing to get excited about – mostly Bs and Cs. I dutifully applied to a couple of well-known “women’s” schools that quickly turned me down, and I also applied to our state university (UMass Amherst) that accepted me (and countless thousands of others).
My folks weren’t thrilled about it, but UMass was my only option, so off I went.
My roommates were terrific, but only one was there to actually study. Unfortunately, I became better friends with the other one, and together we learned a lot about college life … but not much about attending classes. Played pool (did really well with that!). Learned about drinking. Learned more about NOT drinking. Frittered away my time there due to the lack of parental or any other kind of controls. Pretty much ran wild.
Got all Fs and flunked out. 😲 Well, if you don’t actually attend class …
Home to parents who were not amused. Worked during the day that spring and attended night school at a local state school.
Flunked out again.
Back to UMass for the summer, to continue playing pool, winning “girls’ ” tournaments and … yup. Flunking out! Three for three!
Enrolled in a Boston secretarial school (Fisher Jr. College, its name back then), and thanks to my roommate who pushed me to at least graduate, I did. Barely.
And that was the end for a number of years, until I hit my late 30s and just wanted to return, this time for real. Enrolled in night school at Stonehill College in Easton, Mass., where I lived, went faithfully every semester for 14 years, and graduated cum laude. No surprise, as I was doing it because I wanted to and because … well, I was paying for it!
So why this now?
Because thinking about the lessons I learned through those few years and the ones that came after reminds me that there’s never been and likely will never be a one-size-fits-all approach to learning, success, and living a full life.
Very little that I was taught in school prepared me for life, unless you count typing and shorthand that I got at Fisher. Yes, those helped, absolutely. But the other classes? Can’t even remember what they were.
The best lessons came and still come from life experiences, mine and others’. Experiences that I can relate to – whether good or bad – help me decide how to make the right choices for myself.
Now I’m not saying college doesn’t work; it’s excellent for many, but I don’t see it as the be-all and end-all for a bright future for everyone, especially at such a young age. I would have been far better off – at least then – if I had worked for a year or two and see the value that a college education could give me.
All in all, my pleasure from attending Stonehill isn’t because of the courses I took or the professors who shared their knowledge (although one still does stand out because he was just so real); it comes from actually deciding to do it, doing it, and knowing how much the discipline helped shape my future, one that I’m delighted to have!
How and where have you learned your best lessons? Please share your experiences with us.