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5 things college will teach you (& a correspondence course won't)

Last updated on: June 17, 2014 18:35 IST

5 things college will teach you (& a correspondence course won't)

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Paloma Sharma

Your time in college will prepare you for the real world in ways you can never imagine says Paloma Sharma.

College has either begun or is about to begin for students all over India and if you're under 21, then I feel ya bruh ;-)

For the average student, college is hell, and for the exceptionally talented college is nothing but a waste of time.

It is at such moments that the temptation of distance education beckons.

It is supposed to be free learning, a space to follow your own dreams.

Despite its obvious benefits, distance education isn't as glamorous as its made out to be.

Here are five things that college will teach you, which distance education cannot:


1. Following a routine:

As ardent followers of Jai Sri 108 Procrastinationath Babaji's Art of Sleeping, all us religious young people zealously participate in Internet Mata ka Jagrata every night, until at least 3 am, during the vacations.

However, when college comes around with its 7 am reporting time, we must put aside all that is sacred to us and head out to face the monster that has haunted students for generations -- attendance!

Not only does that force one to drag one's bottom to college but to also shuffle it from class to class.

College is to lazy young people what military school is to... erm... lazy young people (except that college doesn't have sweaty, hunky guys).

Colleges teaches you to be punctual and to follow a schedule, instilling a sense of discipline in you which distance education probably couldn't.


Image: Love it or hate it, attending college puts you in a routine.
Photographs: Courtesy IIM Shillong for Careers360
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Managing your money

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Paloma Sharma

You have Rs 1000 to spend over a period of 30 days in the month of June.

You spend Rs 500 on your monthly train pass on the first day and spend a total of Rs 10 on a shared rickshaw, to and from the station, every day.

Keeping the above expenses in mind, how much do you save at the end of the month?

The nerds would say Rs 200 -- actually, wait, let me get my calculator and double check that -- but only the wise ones know that the true answer is Rs 8390.

The equation between college students and money is a highly complex one:

x (College Students) - [kidney - {y (egg)/z (sperm)} + (a) a * dead brain cells] = 678 friends' birthdays + 4 nights of impulsive binge drinking + b(c'medical' expenses) + {(sine heartthrob actor)/(cos latest movie) * 1day1show}

If you manage to solve the above you will find that e = mc2.

Q.E.D.

(I've always wanted to say that :-P)

Going to college will push you out into the big bad world armed with humankind's greatest/most screwed up invention -- money -- and it will force you to decide for yourself whether you use it as a weapon or let it become a weakness.


Image: Going to college will push you out into the big bad world armed with humankind's greatest/most screwed up invention -- money!
Photographs: Vivek Prakash/Reuters
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Dealing with authority

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Paloma Sharma

While sticking it to The Man might be a lovely idea, it is not quite as harmless as wearing Che Guevara T-Shirts and mistaking the Argentine revolutionary for 'that guy from Desperado'.

Try standing up to a teacher who tells you that life begins at conception and that abortion is murder.

No, really, try it.

Try. It.

I dare you.

The Indian education system is as supportive of questions and free thought as the Shri Ram Sene is of ladies' night at your favourite pub.

Getting through college is as easy as ABC, given that the letters are in Arabic and you squint and you squint but all you see are squiggly lines and dots.

That's how I got my glasses.

The struggle to leave the classroom with whatever is left of your soul isn't the only thing that will get you through.

Negotiating with the office staff for your ID, fee receipt and all other equally unimportant seeming scraps of paper ("why don't they just do it online, ya") will test everything you have (un)learned in the classroom and put it to practical use.

This is a time of preparation.

Angry teachers will teach you how to work with, and largely around, angry bosses.

Standing in a queue under the hot afternoon for hours only to find that when your turn comes the Lunch Break sign is put up on the counter, is just a dress rehearsal for when you start visiting sarkari offices.

Haggling for your cellphone with the Lost and Found guy will make you appreciate how hard your parents work to get back cars that are randomly towed away.

College is basically everybody's personal Mr Miyagi.

You will hate what you're learning until you get to use it one day to save your butt from getting kicked.


Image: Angry teachers will teach you how to work with, and largely around, angry bosses. (Picture used here for representational purposes only.)
Photographs: Adnan Abidi/Reuters
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Resisting peer pressure

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Paloma Sharma

There comes a time in every person's life when their will is tested by God/Keanu Reeves/pizza and they must make a choice about whether they wish to give in, or strive on in the face of adversity.

Adversity means different things to different people.

To me, it is a skipping rope and the knowledge that five sets later, I'll be lying on the floor, clutching my calves and crying for my mommy.

To you, it may mean standing outside your hangout spot, with your gang, and resisting the cigarettes offered to you.

It is extremely easy to get swept away in the heat of the moment and do what everyone else is doing, just to feel like you belong - and throughout your time at college, you will be given a number of opportunities to do this.

It is the path that you choose to take when under pressure that will define you.

Most of us go from 1st to 12th grade looking at the same faces, following the same social rules.

It is only when you get to college and you find yourself standing among a million different people that you realise who you truly are.

Its a lot easier to find yourself when you're lost; and peer pressure will come, undoubtedly, and it will tempt you to the safe confines of a clique in exchange for following the lead and doing things you may not be comfortable with.

But when you resist, as I hope you will, you will find yourself to be a lot stronger than you initially thought.

Peer pressure won't end here.

There will always be a cousin (or four) at a wedding who will want to do 'Tokyo drift' with the guests' cars or a colleague who will offer you a 'medical remedy' to fix your glaucoma, but college will be a preparatory phase.

Distance education may sound really cool but college will teach you the most important word in the dictionary -- "No!"


Image: Fancy a smoke? Erm... probably not!
Photographs: Anurag Bishwas/Wikimedia Creative Commons
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Running the race

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Paloma Sharma

Knowing that kids in China will do your job at three times the speed and 1/3rd the pay at which you do it will never manage to raise the alarm bells in the way that your friend getting more marks than you will.

It isn't just about marks either.

There are clubs to head, festivals to organise and internships to bag if one is to build a decent resume.

Despite this, there's no guarantee that you will be placed in a brag-worthy company.

There are lakhs of contenders but only one top spot -- and nothing drives the point home like watching the person who sits next to you, copies your notes and goofs around in class, getting a better grade.

College is just a taste of the level of competition that's out there and if one is to prepare for the real world then it is important to begin with baby steps.

As much as we despise running the rat race, it is not something we can avoid doing, at least not for the first few years until going down the road less travelled becomes a doable thing.

It’s not about accepting The System but about working your way around it.

College might not be able to teach you how to beat the competition (try channeling Arnab Goswami's spirit for that) but it certainly does teach you how to deal with it.


Image: Remember, there are kids in other countries who will do your jobs faster and at a fraction of the cost. Be prepared to face the competition. (Picture used here for representational purposes only.)
Photographs: Toru Hanai/Reuters
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