Why I Choose College

by Nian Li

Posted on October 28, 2018

"Should I take college” might be a common question to many people, not only for those students who are about to finish high school, but also for some adults haven’t get a college diploma yet.

I was luck, before I graduated from high school, I received a full scholarship to a top university in Singapore. Without any hesitation, I accepted that offer and chose Electrical Engineering as my major.

When I went to college, I was extremely fascinated by all different kinds of technologies. Hence, as a freshman, I was always active to various projects and competitions, which gave me some general ideas about EE, ME and CE/CS. When I became a sophomore, I was passionate about entrepreneurship. For example, I was selling small gadgets online; I designed autonomous rainproof machine for outdoor hangers and applied for a utility patent. Afterwards, I designed autonomous window, which will close when raining. At that time, just like many of my friends, I thought college is useless as the skills I need in the future seems not relevant to my study and I even planned to drop out to start up my own business believing that I would be the next Bill Gates or Mark Zuckerberg.

But everything changed after my second summer. I had an internship in a top tech company in US as a software engineering intern and I started to reflect on my past two years in college. I have to say those skillsets needed in my work are not learned directly from my study, but many of the equations, principles and calculation procedures behind those skillsets are what I got from my college. The more important thing is that those countless exams and projects I had in my college enhanced my critical thinking ability which is extremely important to my work. Therefore, instead of starting up a company or doing more EE and ME projects, I started to change my mind and focus on fields related to internet and artificial intelligence which I am interested in since the more I know about products and markets, the more naïve I think I was.

In Chinese, there is a saying about 3 different reading levels: See mountain is mountain, see water is water; See mountain is not mountain, see water is not water; See mountain is still mountain, see water is still water.

College is a platform, it may not give all those technical skills you need, but it does provide you opportunities to find what you love and let you learn from your failures. Nowadays, though I am not that active in school projects anymore, I think school projects are the best gifts to all undergraduates. When you go to work, your boss will not comfort you if you mess things up. Your colleagues will not always hear your complaint. However, during college, you can try different things and find your interest. Your professors, tutors and friends will always give you help and advice. Even though you fail in your project, no one will blame you and you can try it again.

In addition, people you meet in college will be the most precious treasure in your life. You may meet your future Mr. Right or Ms. White, you may find your future working partners and you can even keep in touch with your professors for advice after you graduate.

Last but not least, college is just a key to the world of knowledge. No one can finish all books in library in four years. What does college teach you is how to study and keep yourself thirsty to knowledge. When doing projects, you need to search for related materials and collaborate with your teammates to work things out. When preparing exams, you have to review all the lessons and build your own knowledge infrastructure. Whether keep thirsty to knowledge or not is the key reason why there is a huge difference between growth mindset and fixed mindset people after working 20 years.

However, if you are in following cases, I suggest you consider carefully about your college:

  1. If you know exactly what you want and there is no time to wait. For example, if Mark did not start up Facebook until he graduated from Harvard, we might haven’t heard of Facebook today.
  2. If your major is totally different from your interest and you can find nothing by finishing your degree. For example, Bill Gates dropped out to write codes happily since he had no interest to law at all.
  3. If the tuition fee is a huge burden to your family and you find it is not cost-efficient by taking a student loan. For example, one of the reasons of Steve Jobs’ dropout was the tuition fee was taking his blood parents’ whole-life savings and he did not wish to do that.

Though diploma is more and more important to get a job nowadays, there are indeed some people without college degree making a difference to this world. College does not define who you are, but it does prove your learning ability in certain level. Hence, you should think from your own perspectives carefully to decide whether to take a college or not.