In the comments to the previous post, Hank asked about his “(future) undergrad degree,” so for purposes of this post I’m going to assume he’s either about to graduate high school or has just started college. I know another commenter, Henry, actually is in undergrad. (Ye gods, men, are you trying to get us killed? Socrates had to drink hemlock for less than what we do here). Perhaps there are a few more of you lurking out there, so here’s the best advice I can give you, from someone who spent a lot of time in and around higher ed but is now, praise Allah, retired:
No, it’s not “Don’t go to college.” I know, I say that a lot, but the cold reality of the current situation is that you’ve got to have that piece of paper. So: Go to college. But for pete’s sake don’t pay for it, and spend as little time on campus as you can.
Let’s deal with 1) first. There are certain majors for which you must attend a brick-and-mortar four-year sleepaway camp. Those are the Right Answer Disciplines (hereafter: RAD). Basically, anything math-based. Before you get into one of those, though, you must be 100% absolutely, positively, swear on your momma’s eventual grave certain that you can hack it. Fortunately, there’s an easy three-step test:
- Did your high school offer AP calculus?
- If so, did you take it?
- If so, did you ace it?
Unless you can answer “yes” to all three, you’re not ready to take the RAD plunge. If you can’t, then go to the nearest community college and sign up for the hardest math class you qualify for. Unless you crush that sucker like you’re Good Will Hunting, the RADs are probably not for you. Which is bad, because Engineering and the like are a guaranteed source of unoutsourceable income, but also good, in that you’ve saved yourself a lot of time, money, and grief. (Calc I is to education as curve balls are to baseball players — it’s what separates the talented tenth from the rest of us. Just as there’s no shame in not being able to hit a curve ball, there’s no shame in not being able to do engineer math).
But let’s say you did crush it. That’s not your cue to start filling out your Harvard app. Think about it for a sec: There’s no such thing as “Harvard math.” Places like Harvard, MIT, Georgia Tech, etc. have better labs, it’s true, but unless you know you’re going to be a research chemist or something — and if you’re wondering, you’re not — then those facilities don’t mean much. Leaving aside the peculiarities of specialized subdisciplines within Engineering (which I’m not qualified to comment on, and again, if you have to ask they’re not for you), you can pretty much go anywhere. Your goals are still the same, though — as little time on campus as you can, at as low a cost as possible.
Take as many classes as possible at the local juco. Most jucos have extensive online offerings now; take those. So long as you’re sure they transfer to the college you picked — go down to the registrar in person to make sure — you can get all the freshman-year bullshit out of the way, and usually most of the sophomore crap too, at a tiny fraction of the cost.
This is key, because as much as it pains me to say it, required frosh classes like “Western Civ I” are so bad, they’re anti-education; you’d be better off picking up any of the Penguin Classics and just reading it on the treadmill (more on the “Liberal Arts” below). This is true everywhere, and it fact it’s worse the higher you go — the juco might actually have a nice 80 year old lady teaching English 101 who just likes Dickens and wants to share her hobby with the world, but at Harvard you’re guaranteed to get some Angry African who assigns you to find all the racism on a soup can label.
Once you’ve done all that and you’re forced to go off to “real college,” staying off campus as much as possible becomes your number one priority. I know, I know, that sucks, because campus is where the girls are. But that’s precisely why you need to stay away. Have you seen college girls lately? I have, and while I’m hard-pressed to remember what it’s like to be a young man so hormone-addled that the sight of linoleum gives you a semi, I’m still a guy — I get it. Even the blue-haired nose-ringers look good after a few brews in low light and from a distance, because at that age pretty much anything with boobies will do. Here’s what you need to know:
I’m sure there are non-insane college girls out there, but I’m even more sure I have no idea how to find them. (If I did, I’d tell you, because I wouldn’t wish modern “dating” on my worst enemy). Did you see what happened to Brett Kavanaugh? Yeah. Christine Blasey-Ford is a professor. Let that sink in for a minute. Remember it every time you’re tempted to go talk to a college girl. That’s why staying off campus is job 1.
And that’s the best-case scenario, y’all. Let’s say you’re not cut out for engineer math. The good news is, you can pick up an “associate’s degree” entirely online, and an AA is generally all you need. You can even get BAs that way now if you feel you must have one, but online degree mills like U Phoenix are surprisingly expensive. Your local juco can probably get you an all-online AA for next to nothing.
The bad news, of course, is that you’ll have to pick a major, and they’re all pretty much worthless. The least-worthless steer as close to the RADs as possible — Finance, I suppose, and things like that — while the most worthless have “Studies” somewhere in them. If math isn’t your thing (I completely sympathize), your best bet is, counterintuitively, one of the “Studies.” You won’t actually learn anything — they’re so bad, as I’ve said, they’re actually anti-education — but they’re the easiest As you’ll ever pull. Repeat after me: “_____ is just a social construction.”
That’s it. You’ll have to find your professor’s particular hobbyhorses — not hard, as she’ll bring them up 5,000 times per lecture — but even there you can always skate with some iteration of #OrangeManBad. Skim the syllabus for buzzwords, cruise by the Postmodern Essay Generator, do a quick find-and-replace with your class-specific buzzwords, and there you go.
“But,” I hear you asking, “what if I actually want to learn something like History, or English Lit?” That’s the best part — it’s totally free. The Internet has you covered. So long as the writer doesn’t mention having any degrees, you’re golden. I recommend the Z Man’s “essential knowledge” series as a good starting point, but however you look at it, if it’s in plain English and makes sense, it’s far better than anything you would’ve gotten at even the “best” college.
Just remember the golden rule: Stay off campus as much as possible, while spending as little as possible.Loading Likes...