By Eliisa Vatanen, Finland
Second place in EssayMama Winter Essay Writing Contest
There is no person in this world who doesn't want to be happy and successful. Happiness, among other things, is conditioned by the success we achieve in society. Throughout our lives, we are constantly learning new things. In children, the desire for knowledge is mostly based on curiosity, but as people grow up, they start thinking about the benefits they can obtain from that knowledge. From all challenges I faced in my life, I realized that my own happiness depended upon the contributions I made to the society. When I get a higher degree, I will have a better chance to do the job I aim for, and support a harmonious family. As the great Aristotle said, "all men by nature desire knowledge." To me, college education is not only related to the knowledge necessary to succeed in society; it's is also about developing character, conduct, and potential to make changes in this world.
From an early age, children start learning and investigating the world that surrounds them. They all have a natural tendency to ask questions, and they expect answers that satisfy their curiosity. As they become part of the traditional educational system, the overwhelming volume of information they receive can distract them from real reason why they go to school. Instead of learning for the sake of gaining more knowledge, most of them are focused on the objective of gaining high grades and making their parents proud. Over the years, the vision of college becomes a natural part of their plans for the future. Although I always knew I would direct my education towards literature and languages, I still found myself on a crossroad as soon as I graduated from high school. "Should I study what I truly want, or should I choose a major that will make me more successful?" Unless I become a famous published author, a degree in literature won't make me rich. Working for a publishing house or teaching were attractive options for me, but everyone started convincing me that those jobs wouldn't launch me into a bright future. Given the fact that I mostly wanted to become a published author, college didn't seem that necessary anymore.
There were several factors that distracted me from my initial goal to get into a prestigious college. In addition to the fact that I had directed myself towards an "unattractive" profession, as my parents enjoyed saying, I had another big issue: colleges were too expensive. In France, public higher education is really affordable: the basic fees for undergraduate studies are around 170 euros a year, and Master's and doctoral studies cost around 230 euros per year. Nevertheless, French universities are never present on the global rankings of trusted, prestigious universities. Harvard, which has been a leader on these lists for decades, keeps increasing its tuition on a yearly basis. The more expensive it gets - the greater appreciation it gets. Does this mean that you don't get the best education unless your parents are capable to pay for it? I was used to accepting education as a good thing in its essence. When I realized that a huge investment in a top-level American university might not get me to a place that would make my parents proud, I started doubting my decisions. Although I still wanted to go to college, I didn't want to study something I didn't like. College is a great experience for most students, but for others it's a real struggle.
I realized I had two options: get the degree I wanted and struggle with finances for the rest of my life, or ignore my aspirations and get a degree that gives greater chances for success in a corporate environment. Fortunately, my parents convinced me to start college and see where things would take me. I finally realized that the world was driven by material needs, which had the power to paralyze the spirit. College became the first step of the lifelong journey that's supposed to teach me how to survive in the cruel, inhuman corporate economy. Literature had no place in this system, but I found comfort in the thought that the chance to write and publish a book stays open regardless of the degree I earn. I decided to start college with a fresh state of mind, with no prejudices towards any course. As it turned out, that crossroad led me into an unexpected direction. College is not only about education. Most of all, it's a great experience that everyone needs to experience. My initial ideas about learning and discovering the world of literature grew into something even better: meeting people from all around the world, discovering new interests, and gaining independence through the most exciting experiences in my life.
College was necessary for me to understand that life always has a way to face us with new challenges and push us through them. I started with a critical point of view; I blamed the system and my parents for forcing me to give up on my dreams. With time, I realized that the sacrifice faced me with new opportunities. Thanks to free online courses, I can devote myself to my main interest whenever I want. I will become a writer one day. However, I will also have an MBA degree with a potential to make actual changes in this world. Skills and qualifications are always necessary for finding happiness and a purpose in life.
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