Want to freak out a college student?

Posted on by vandal and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Therefore the LORD God sent him forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from which he was taken.

And that’s how we ended up in a world where the snuggie is a thing.

Asking a current college student, usually in their 3rd year or less for best results, the following.

“What would you do if college weren’t an option?”

“What, like not this one? Uh, guess I’d go to University of–”

“No. I mean no university or college. Period.”

“Well guess I’d go to community college and reapply–”

“No. There’s no college. None. You don’t ever get to go. You stop any official schooling at high school.”


Over time I’ve asked 22 and of that 11 have semi-jokingly said “kill myself” while 8 said they simply never thought about it and never had to. Two had some answer of “get a job with my father/uncle”. One said she’d be a stripper but she was kind of drunk when asked.

Of those I asked 4 were of poorer home income (by that I mean I know they have a 0 EFC or close) and only one of them said they’d work with their uncle, the other 3 said kill themselves but seemed much more serious. Also two of the wealthier ones that I asked replied in the semi-snobby “never had to think about it…I was in a [high] school that college was guaranteed for everyone unlike you” which made me laugh.

Recommended reading: http://www.cracked.com/blog/the-question-youre-not-asking-should-you-go-to-college/

Oh and most of that 22 are some form of STEM. At least 2 were psychology majors. 3 were math majors. One was a physics major for sure and more of the rest are engineering of some sort. Possibly a global history or technical theater major but none much. 

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16 Responses to Want to freak out a college student?

  1. eqv says:

    Interesting. Wonder what you’d get if you asked some liberal-arts types the same question.

    I know mostly humanities/psych majors, so I’ll ask around. There will probably be some cultural differences though– I’m not in the US.

    • sunshinefiasco says:

      I’ll admit, the job situation got rough enough at home that I considered the armed forces. And I went to suuuuuper hippie college. Try to score high enough on the tests and try to work with languages or something else complicated. Americorps also hires people with only a high school diploma, if there are any of those jobs left.

      I think that there are some jobs working with juvenile half-way houses, elder care etc. but you may need to be in community college courses or be in the process of an associate’s or something. I know you said college was absolutely super never an option, but that’s not really accurate for most people. At least not in my homestate, often identified as a socialist hellhole.

  2. nadiaak says:

    That’s some solid data collection, Lou.

    But really. I think you’re trying to make the argument that going to college became another “no brainer” decision? If yes, then I agree. And I agree it’s stupid.

    • vandal says:

      Nah. Not really much of an argument as much of an observation.

      I suppose the conclusion could be students supplement college for the real world. Or they see no other possible option besides college so the whole “there are too many kids going to college!” is a fine statement but if you can’t find another thing for kids to do once they graduate high school then what the hell is the solution.

      It’s not some much “obviously college” as “obviously there’s nothing else!” which is saddening to think of. They feel like they have no other option. Get a job? Just get a job? How? No one has ever told them how people get jobs and live happily without college. Every student is told they’ll be horribly poor and jobless without college. You can actually get a normal job and make a living and be happy without college but they don’t see it realistically on TV or in the movies and their parents go with the same story so they’re afraid.

      And in the engineering school there are often students in it out of obligation. They know liberal arts would get them no money so they’re doing engineering (though it’s not as high an amount as you’d think, since most engineers at this point have to sort of enjoy this work or be horribly masochistic). There’s a scoff at art majors and creative writing, especially general business majors. There is narcissism in the sense that a lot call themselves “engineers” instead of engineering students and freshman will be mad at not getting looked at for summer internships even though what skill gained from intro courses could add to companies like Intel?

      • MarcusB says:

        Engineering student here. I ask myself why I’m in engineering as well. I tell myself that it’s so that I could learn problem solving skills so that I can deal with the real world, but I am not sure about anything yet; I’m probably not even going to go into engineering.
        Sometimes I like it, sometimes I don’t; you might be right about the pride factor, and a lot of times, I end up hating it in the middle of the night when I can’t get any sleep because I’m stuck working on problem sets.
        Not sure what to say about the whole college matter.

        • MarcusB says:

          I also don’t think more introspection and having 20 year old kids “find themselves” are the answers, from my guess and own experience, we do that a lot and still come up empty handed; not only that but more confused, we have more options which keeps us locked in a state of ambiguity and ambivalence.

          • vandal says:

            Yeah I don’t think introspection is the answer either. I think there should be more focus on looking out into the world and seeing that as a whole. That as an American of not extreme poverty, getting any simple job wouldn’t be hell.

            But nobody just wants any job. They all want the job that is meant for them and will give fulfillment of some sort.

            I suppose that’s due to all the options. So many options and if you don’t choose the absolute best one you’ll regret it.

          • operator says:

            So many options and if you don’t choose the absolute best one you’ll regret it.

            Spoken like an engineering student.

            Dan Gilbert’s research suggests that we adjust our perspective to meet the reality of our situation – you can try to optimize for happiness, but it’s ultimately so arbitrary that the hackneyed adage applies just as well as any formulaic approach: “It’s not the destination, it’s the journey.”

            If you plan on being an older version of yourself in thirty years (Produkt über alle!) then yes, it’s fairly simple to lock things down to the experiences you want to have – but consider that, in thirty years, you won’t be your engineering-student-self … perhaps you’ll be an embittered almost-was bartender masquerading as an engineer or, more likely, (and with any luck) something else entirely.

          • MarcusB says:

            Don’t get me wrong though, I wouldn’t rather have chosen any other major. Engineering has given me a new found appreciation for math and I’ve worked harder now that I ever have in my life.

            It’s just the uncertainty that looms in the back of my head every day as to what will happen in the future.

          • vandal says:

            damn, can’t reply past the 3rd reply?


            Well I didn’t mean it for myself specifically as just a general idea everyone seems to hold in college. Everyone is looking for the job most beneficial to them.

            Which is fine and great. But few know what the best job for them will be at 18.

            Though I do like engineering and like what I do here. My main goal career wise is to not hate my life at 30. Which I think may work out since a I figure you can’t be too depressed if you can walk around and say “hey, I fucking built that”.

            I sincerely find mechanical controls fun and intend to work somewhere to make them better. Spending hours on a project and that moment the 43rd test of it works is a good enough elation that I could go weeks without sex and still feel sated.

  3. operator says:

    The Cracked.com article you linked (er… sorta – blame the editors!) elucidates What’s Really Going On® particularly well – this is another instance of reconditioning public expectations (“Not going to college? Fail!”) to acquire consent for something (“Here’s a degree in _____ – will you be paying by cash, check, or credit card?”) that could only be agreed to under emotional duress.

    Remember what collapsed the housing market? The repackaged loans being traded with no capital behind them? This is the exact same deal.

    The Question You’re Not Asking: Should You Go To College? at Cracked.com

  4. Pingback: Higher Education: Leveraged Aspirations » Operator Speaking

  5. Zarathustra says:

    Philosophy/Biopsychology double major here. I think I’d move to India and become a monk. Or maybe I’d be a freelance anthropologist.

  6. Tim says:

    Interesting post and comments.
    The author writes from a perspective of superiority. Of the 22 students he creepily questioned, none of them gave him ‘the correct answer’.
    He knew the answer was correct because he was privy to some truth, not reveled to them.
    That was why he asked – because he knew what answer they would give.
    And it made him feel good.

    He doesn’t tell you what the correct answer is in his post, because that would expose his assertion to criticism.

    We could guess – maybe the answer is that the college course he is failing at isn’t that important anyway. Maybe it’s that unlike the author, these students drifted into college, carried by the powerful wake of parents and money. Only he really deserves to be there because only he is there for the right reasons. Reasons that have nothing to do with his upbringing or circumstances, and everything to do with his superior clarity of thought.
    I dunno, Author, what is the answer?

    • vandal says:

      hah, there isn’t a right answer though I suppose I’m biased to the uncle/family ones

      The reason I started asking was because I was at a small house party and mixing various drinks to show off my drink mixing skills. Someone mentioned I ought to be a bar tender and I say “I would’ve been if not at college! My uncle owns a bar and always tried to get me working there!” and I actually loved working at his bar and would have tried taking over for him if college were no option.

      Then for some reason I asked the girl what she’d be doing if not college and she said strip.

      For some reason that stuck with me the morning after (the question, not the alter-stripper) and I’ve asked 21 more people over the year since.

      Also I’m doing decent in most of my courses (not the rare 4.0 but >3.0 so good enough) . I do really like engineering and I mentioned in another reply that I believe most in it at this point must enjoy it at some level. To me that’s reason enough to do it.

      Though I like how you must overanalyze my overanalyzition. Why do you want me to fail?

      • Tim says:

        That’s an interesting question, because I didn’t realize until you mentioned it that I did want you to fail.
        I wrote a natural response to your post like:
        “I think you are making a false case – you are implying something about a population based on some evidence, but I think you have faked your evidence. Most students appeared to work while studying, either part time or during holiday. The path of least resistance would be for them to answer I would do (X part time job). I simply don’t believe your report’.
        But then I considered that the people you socialize with may be different to the people I socialized with. “Your friends sound like douches” wasn’t much of a response.
        So, angry with you for what I believed to be a transparent attempt at manipulation, I came up with a criticism that didn’t rely on the facts neither of us could prove – which was based on the article itself.

        But is that true either?
        I seem to write 2 types of comment on-line – comments where I assert facts to make me look clever, and comments where I attempt to outwit the other poster, to make me look cleverer than.
        You got the latter, and that was why I wanted you to fail.
        So thanks for pointing this out.