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Just about everyone knows someone who has been bullied, in ways big and small. Understandably, though, many victims are reluctant to speak about their experiences. We found some who aren't.
BY MICHELLE STARK | Tampa Bay Times
It can be hard to justify an expensive college degree these days, with an unforgiving economy leaving lots of young people struggling to find jobs. But college is more than just the paper diploma you receive at the end. It’s an invaluable mix of independence, accomplishment, fear, and trial and error. Whether it’s a prestigious university or a two-year community college, if you have the chance after high school to immerse yourself in the world of higher education, you should take it. Here’s why:
At college you will do things you’ve never done before — and things you may never get the chance to do again.
No, I don’t mean illegal activities; I’m talking about all that great stuff that comes with the freedom of being a (mostly) independent young adult who doesn’t yet have to worry about real world responsibilities. At college, you walk to the dining hall for late-night breakfast and snarf tater tots at 11 p.m. At college, you have dance parties all hours of the night in your dorm room with roommates you just met a few weeks ago. At college, you eat pizza for dinner every night of the week and not gain weight (well, depends on whether you hold the pepperoni).
When will you get the chance to do these things again? Certainly not when you have to be up at 6 a.m. every day for an office job or when it becomes harder to make friends because you’re not forced to cohabit with them. Or when your metabolism slows down in your 20s and you can’t eat anything you want without consequences (I didn’t believe it either, but it’s a real thing, people). College is the time to be ridiculous, to get by on a few hours of sleep because you’re having too much fun.
College is a chance to explore who you are and who you want to be.
Despite being the most cheesy sentence ever, the sentiment is true. You do a lot of learning in college (we hope), but you also have a lot of free time. More than you would expect, and it’s the perfect chance to find out what you really want to do without anyone telling you. Want to make it your goal to attend every football game of the year? Go ahead! Think it’d be cool to join that dance team that performs every morning near the student center? No one’s stopping you. Realize your passion is to speak fluent Russian? There’s a club for that.
College also sharpens the focus on what you really want to do with your major, your hobbies, your friends. Example: I was a die-hard band nerd in high school. I basically only hung out with band students. We played at football games every Friday. We lounged in the band room before school started. I was certain I would join the marching band in college and continue to play my French horn. But after a semester or two of playing with a small ensemble, I realized I didn’t have the time or money — or really, the interest — to keep it up. Most important , I realized I was better at other things that I wanted to pursue instead. At college, that was no problem.
College is training for the real world.
Sure, your high school might be diverse. But you haven’t seen anything yet. In college, you are surrounded by people of varying color, religion, age, ability, cleanliness, etc. Unless you attend a private all-girl or all-boy school, you will meet all kinds of people and have to deal with them. That’s a fact. The good news? This is great training for the real world, when you’ll have to work with people you don’t like. You’ll also have to deal with things like time management, grocery shopping and demanding (and sometimes not very nice) professors. Think of college as a warm cocoon, a chance to practice these skills and learn how to adapt to (sometimes unwelcome) weirdness before you have to do it for real.
College offers lots of opportunities to make connections beyond your diploma.
It’s really difficult to come out of college without at least one positive connection. They’re everywhere: accomplished professors with vast knowledge who can help further your interests, wise older students who serve as mentors (both academically and socially, natch), quirky roommates who know all about the local music scene, counselors who make sure you know about the school’s study abroad programs — the list goes on and on.
Here are some things I got to do in college that I’m pretty certain wouldn’t have happened otherwise: I traveled to Florence, Italy, for six weeks one summer. I had steady work all four years, through various jobs I found on campus or through the school (bonus: I first met my boyfriend of [now] three years at one of these on-campus gigs, a pleasant surprise). I got to see celebrity speakers and attend seminars by internationally known faculty — for free. And I got to interview with a recruiter for the Tampa Bay Times, who offered me an internship despite the fact I wasn’t qualified for the original position I interviewed for. That internship turned into the job I have now. I had an “in” at the company even before I had my diploma, and that was all thanks to college.
Michelle Stark graduated from the University of South Florida in 2010.