Learning outside the classroom

Sean Kennedy
Sean Kennedy

As we ease into the last stretch of school before summer, I find myself in a reflective state, and I can’t help but look back on all that has happened in my freshman year of college. I have to say, it certainly wasn’t anything like what I expected. What did I learn? How did I grow? How did college prepare me for life? These are the most common questions my college-aged friends use to expound on when I was in high school. I got to tell you, my answers are pretty different from those I received in the past.

What have I learned so far? Well in concrete, textbook terms, I can’t say I’ve learned much at all. Outside of vocal techniques and random facts about the ocean and the media, I can’t tell you one thing I’ve been taught that I will remember and apply to my life outside of college. This has nothing to do with my study habits; I’ve had my ups and downs throughout the year, but I’ve compiled a respectable first-year GPA. I assume my experience is probably different from others’ because I haven’t declared a major yet, but honestly, a majority of my first year work has felt like a lot of unnecessary hoop-jumping. It’s been like high school, but with an exorbitant charge.


How have I grown? Again, if you were to look at my classroom performance, I’m not much different from my upperclassmen years in high school. I still could stand to study more, but I still have not been forced to put the pedal to the metal very often. In fact, my GPA is identical to that my freshman year of high school; good, but could be better. But as of yet, I haven’t felt the drive to perform at the level I know I’m capable of. So far, college has been the same old dance, and while I’ve genuinely enjoyed some of the classes I’ve taken, it still feels like the same motions. I’ve had to adjust my personal habits only slightly.

How has college prepared me for life? In an academic sense, my experience so far has taught me that my level of success is relatively proportional to my level of effort, but that I don’t need to push too hard to do alright. However, it has also demonstrated that I need to be prudent and quick in making decisions, as complacency gets expensive quickly. Overall, I wouldn’t consider myself much of a changed man.

So far, my reflection on my college education would appear to be pretty bleak and an indictment on the value of college education. While I do believe that college is ridiculously overpriced and that such an education will soon no longer be economically viable, I have left out the most important part of the college experience from my analysis.

The experiential side of college, one’s time outside the classroom in other words, is the most important part of the college experience. The side of college that you actually live has been so much more influential on me as a person, and I’m certain most students would agree with me. So let me revise my reflections, and demonstrate the area where the CSU community has actually affected me (for better or worse).

What have I learned so far? I’ve learned that college is its world, sort of like Disneyland; it has its own objectives and schedules, and everyone’s rushing about trying to enjoy themselves as much as they can while doing everything on their list and hitting everything on the map. I’ve learned that the Alley Cat is as much a home for Rams as it is for high-schoolers. I’ve learned what certain drinks go well with other certain drinks, and that you have to hit the gym early if you want a spot in the locker room.

How have I grown? I’ve become more self-sufficient, and more empathetic. College has shown me that every one of us, although we will always have friends and loved ones, is ultimately alone to shape our futures and make way. We have to fend for ourselves but also be aware of others, because our mistakes are valuable learning opportunities. Sure, we all have that one pesky neighbor who throws down at an ungodly hour or starts bass-quakes, but really, they’re just trying to live, as clueless as we are. College has indeed taught me much. It’s a bit ironic, however, that the most learning occurs outside the classroom.

Sean Kennedy is an undeclared freshman who is proud to be a CSU Ram. Love and hate can be sent to letters@collegian.com.

In Brief:

Remember that concrete learning can only take you so far.

Measuring success by the grades that you earn can be dangerous, because there’s so much unaccounted for.


A lot of useful learning happens outside of the classroom.