The most underrated part of college is what you learn outside of the classroom. And no, we're not talking about the stuff your parents worry about ("Mom! I learned how to make a bong out of a dildo!"). We're talking about the bitter, cruel disappointment you feel when you find out how college actually works.
When it comes to lowering your expectations of the adult world, it doesn't get much better than finding out ...
#5. Most of Your Teachers Aren't Qualified to Teach
For those of you who've been to college, your first shock was probably your teachers. Where are the scholarly gray-haired guys with elbow patches on their jackets, full of worldly wisdom? Why do all of your teachers look like they're about 23 years old and read their lessons straight off of a PowerPoint presentation?
"Didn't I do keg stands with him last night?"
Unfortunately, the notion of college professors as scholarly experts who inspire learning is as outdated as the idea of getting a job after graduating from college. Fewer than 30 percent of all professors are full-time faculty. The other 70 percent are the underpaid, unwashed masses doing most of the teaching, and, in many cases, doing it poorly.
About 32 percent of all courses are taught by grad students attempting to stave off unemployment. What makes them qualified to do a job previously performed by tenured Ph.D.s? Nothing! Only half of teaching assistants get any sort of meaningful instruction on how to teach, where "meaningful" can mean a five-hour, completely optional seminar. The rest walk in on the first day of class and reflexively stumble toward the back row before realizing, "Shit. I need to be up here now."
"OK, so here's the deal: I'm actually much better at math, so this is no longer a history class."
Armed with less training than a kindergarten teacher, almost no access to class materials and sometimes a limited command of English, the grad students bravely soldier forth to try not to fuck up the educations of impressionable freshmen. Over the coming years, a small percentage level up to tenured faculty who often still don't know how to write a syllabus or generate coherent content.
And then there are the people who wind up teaching college courses as "mid-career changes." That is a euphemism for being so specialized or so old that they have no other choice but teaching after leaving their old careers. Yes, teaching college part-time is now viewed as a sexy alternative to being unemployed. These adjunct teachers, as you've guessed, get less training than grad students and may have no aptitude for teaching whatsoever. Not that they'd have a bunch of time for extra training anyway -- about 65 percent of part-time professors have another job they have to run to once class is over.
"Would you like a dissertation on the Franco-Prussian War with that?"
A cynical person could say that this means the journalists and MBAs of tomorrow are being trained by people too incompetent to retain their dream jobs. The truth is probably somewhere between that and Robin Williams in Good Will Hunting.
#4. Colleges Are Selling Out More Than You Think
It's not an earth-shattering revelation that every business, club and institution on the planet is looking for ways to make some extra cash on the side. By the time you get to college, you're jaded enough to not be surprised by, say, overpriced sweatshirts or jacked-up parking fees on campus. But you have no idea how hard your school banks on you winding up hopelessly, disastrously in debt when you graduate.
"God, please bankrupt half the sophomore class. Amen."
For instance, some colleges essentially sell their students' information to credit card companies for a piece of the action. At the University of Michigan, an agreement with Bank of America stuffs $25.5 million into the alumni association's pants in return for the "names and addresses of students, alumni, faculty, staff, donors and holders of season tickets to athletic events" -- i.e., everyone who has set foot on the damned campus, ever.
OK, but just encouraging you to sign up for a card isn't actually encouraging you to be irresponsible with it. It's not like they get a bonus for kids racking up more debt than they can pay -- oh, wait. Michigan State University actually does receive royalties from Bank of America based on student spending and, yes, the school can make even more money if the student carries a balance. So the school profits when its students fumble toward financial insolvency. Have we mentioned that the average senior graduates with a ball-busting $4,100 in credit card debt, a figure so staggering that Congress actually passed a goddamn law to restrict credit card access for those under 21?
"Wait, I have to pay this back!?!"
Not that it's just credit card companies diving at students' wallets. At the University of North Carolina, during move-in the school lets Target bus students to a nearby store, where they shop and party with (no shit) the Target mascot, a live DJ ... and the school's vice chancellor. (Wait, Target has a mascot? How would you wear that costume without fear of getting shot at?)
Maybe you're sitting there thinking, "Yeah, schools should do it the old-fashioned way and get all of their money from donations! You know, like how rich people donate in exchange for having a building named after them!" Ah, but that money comes with filthy strings attached, too. Case in point: The BB&T Charitable Foundation donates money with the requirement that the school create a course on capitalism and teach Ayn Rand's bible on human selfishness, Atlas Shrugged. And yes, one of the requirements is that everyone read all 1,200 pages.
At least they didn't have to watch the movie.
#3. They Beg You to Apply Just So They Can Reject You
Who would you say are the most aggressive and borderline unethical marketers out there? It has to be credit card companies, right? They're the ones who employ a sophisticated targeting matrix that results in carpet-bombing "pre-approved" card offers to disinterested consumers, wildly irresponsible spenders and the occasional dog who has been dead for a decade.
In their defense, he had an 800 score.
Well, at some point, colleges looked at that marketing model and said, "You know what? This is a great idea." Colleges are now luring students via techniques usually seen in emails beginning with "REQUEST FOR URGENT BUSINESS RELATIONSHIP."
Instead of the "Pre-Approved for Low-Interest No-Fee Platinum" offers, colleges use a fast-track application, or fast app. With the fast app, colleges have eliminated annoyances like filling in your name, paying an application fee and bothering to write a college essay. Some colleges are sending out VIP applications, supposedly picking the brightest for special attention, implying "platinum" style membership with terms like "Distinctive Candidate Applications" and "Exclusive Scholar Applications." For instance, Marquette University sent out "Advantage" applications to 40,000 students who actually range from valedictorians to some guy who asked for a brochure. Marquette's entire freshman class will be fewer than 2,000 students, by the way.
Dean of Admissions, Marquette University.
So why flood themselves with piles of applications they know they're going to reject anyway? Because even if the spammed prospective students don't qualify, the schools can still boast about how many applicants they attract, thanks to all of the random strangers who replied to their mass mailings. After all, the U.S. News Best College rankings factor in total applicants and rejection rates (look how exclusive they are!), and a college can artificially boost its rank by ... attracting and then rejecting a lot of unqualified people.
If this seems like it's one step above email spam, well, they have started doing that, too, with one prospective student reporting getting bombarded by emails with subject lines like "Pleased to meet you, David," "Tulane University has selected you" and "A top college wants to get to know you!"
It's a little frightening that colleges are paying for advertisement campaigns straight out of the Cracked.com comment section ... and most colleges won't offer you the chance to meet wealthy singles OR make $1,700 a week working from home.