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6 reasons the traditional college experience may not be all it’s cracked up to be

FOMO (fear of missing out) is real. If you’re considering distance education, you may be concerned about missing out on the traditional, four-year college experience. Some say college is the best time you’ll ever have in life — that this is as good as it gets.

I would wholeheartedly disagree with those people.

Personally, I did the traditional college experience, and it was a mixed bag. Overall, it wasn’t a bad time in my life, but it certainly wasn’t the best. And as I’ve gotten older, I’ve seen the negative effects traditional college has had on some of my friends.

Allow me to explain.

1. College may be fun, but debt is not

A lot of folks go into serious debt by going to college. Debt that takes years to pay off. The kind of debt that prevents them from moving out of their apartment into a house or replacing a car. 

In fact, in 2021 the total college debt in our country adds up to approximately $1.7 trillion dollars. And that creates a lot of stress, which is no fun. 

In contrast, distance learning tends to be much less expensive. This makes sense because you’re not paying for food, lodging, and on-campus amenities. Typically, you’ll pay around $400 per credit when doing distance learning, as opposed to around $600 per credit when learning on campus.

Distance learning also allows you greater flexibility to work and pay your way through school. For instance, you could go to community college for your first two years, which can save you a lot of money. Many community colleges have strong distance education programs. You could then transfer, either in-person or via distance learning, to a university.

2. You’ll be growing up (but so will others)

I think that these days, most people who enter college aren’t adults in the sense of being mature, respectful human beings who know how to be self-sufficient, functional members of society. As a result, most of the 18-to-20-year-old “adults” I knew in college had a lot to learn about adulthood. This is unsurprising, given that the rational part of our brains isn’t fully developed until we’re around 25.

I admit, I had a lot of growing up to do in college. I was selfish, high-strung, and temperamental. But the people around me had their share of flaws, too. Like me, many of them had a lot of growing up to do. 

And when you live in a dorm surrounded by people who are learning how to be grownups, it can create conflict. That conflict can lead to people saying or doing regretful things. It can be a tough time.

3. No, it will likely not be the best time in your life

Here’s a secret: For many people, life gets better after college. You have money, you have grown up, you know your strengths and weaknesses, and you know who you are. Often, folks in college don’t have these perks. Yet. Growing (yourself and your bank account) takes time.

For some folks, college may be the best time in life, but I haven’t met them. Personally, after over a decade of being out of college, I can definitively say that life is much better now.

4. There are ways to socialize without being in a dorm

Sure, a dorm is a great place to meet new people. But it isn’t the only way. Joining a city-league sports team, getting involved in a church, joining a local meetup, or meeting your friends’ friends are all great ways to meet new friends. 

You may also want to consider volunteering with others. There are plenty of great organizations spread throughout the United States that would love to have your help. Not only will you aid other people, but you’re likely to make several new friends. Who knows? Maybe you’ll meet your potential spouse doing something like this.

5. No, you don’t have to find your spouse in college

As a senior in college, I remember thinking, “This is my last chance of finding a wife.” 

But that didn’t happen — at least not then. And I’m glad I didn’t find my wife during that time because I wasn’t ready for the responsibility. 

I imagine there are many like me. In fact, the average age of a person getting married for the first time is almost 28 for women and almost 30 for men. Considering that “college-age” is typically considered 18-22, it’s safe to say that there are a lot of people who are meeting their spouse post-college. 

Dating apps like Coffee Meets Bagel, eHarmony, and Bumble, are ways you can meet that special someone. Personally, I met my wife on Coffee Meets Bagel, making that my favorite app of all time.

6. You can waste a lot of time

Many people flounder in college and spend years trying to finish a degree without much direction. According to the US Department of Education, 57.6% of students finish college within six years, while only 33.3% finish within four.

I think this points to how a lot of folks tend to essentially hide in college. They hide because it means they don’t have to face adult responsibilities. They hide because the rules are straightforward in college — get good grades to be successful here. Whereas life outside of college isn’t as simple. And this is likely intimidating to many.

Wrapping up

The traditional college experience can be a lot of fun. It can also be really frustrating and expensive. Don’t worry if the best time in your life will pass you by if you decide to go with distance learning. Chances are the best days you’ll ever have are long after college.

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