Why Are Your Going to College?

A million college-related questions may plague you during your junior year: What will you major in? Do you want a small or large school? In-state or out? But Dr. Paul Corrigan at the University of Tampa suggests a different question, one you may have overlooked: Why are you going to college? Below, Dr. Corrigan explains why this question matters.

According to Ken Bain in his book “What the Best College Students Do,” there are three types of students: surface learners want to “survive” their classes; strategic learners want to “shine”; and deep learners want to “grow.”

Let’s imagine Jolie, Martyn, and Lilianna all take Intro to Economics. Prof. Nguyen passes out an article from The Economist titled “The Long Goodbye to Covid-19,” and tells the students to write a reflection about the article for homework.

Jolie just wants to get by. She glances over the article and dashes out a quick summary of what it seems to be about. “We might want the pandemic to be over already,” she dutifully comments, “but it’s not yet.” She writes a paragraph, dropping in a couple facts about vaccine production and distribution. She turns in her paper and moves on.

Martyn has different goals. Wanting to ace the class, he reads every word of the article, highlighting key quotations in yellow, and writing a full page explaining the key concepts, including “the delta variant” and “the normalcy index.” He quotes the article properly and proofreads carefully.

Lilianna has high aspirations: She wants to really learn something. She reads the article twice, pausing to note her questions in the margins. She writes a thoughtful reflection that zeros in on an intriguing passage about how pandemics prompt people to search for meaning in their lives. She wonders, “Are money, medicine, and meaning connected in ways that I hadn’t thought of before?”

Each student will probably get what they want. Jolie will pass, and Martyn will get a good grade, but only Lilianna will learn a new way of thinking about the complexity of the world. If these students take the same approach day after day, course after course, throughout college, those results will really add up.

Now imagine it’s you, because it’s about to be. Why are you going to college?

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