A student’s College choice is usually one of the most stressful and significant first choices of his early adulthood. And while it is important to have fun in College, that can’t be the only deciding factor in the selection process. College has to be so much more than just fun. It is responsible for taking students who are just starting to be full adults and teaching them the best way to do that. College, which comes from the Latin word collegium–meaning community, society, guild–is meant to be experienced through a partnership. Through this partnership, the student is fully guided into being.
The three most important things a student should judge a college on are the College’s ability to live up to a sound mission statement, the education, and the community. In the mission statement, Colleges list what they intent on educating their students. If the mission statement matches your principles, then it will most likely be a comfortable fit for you. Getting an education will help you extent that mission statement to other areas of life by giving you the tools you need to teach through word and example the reasons you had for agreeing with those founding principles. And living in a community of positive, semi like-minded individuals will help you share your truth finding experience with others.
A College’s mission statement needs to express concern in defending every true and beautiful thing. It is in the nature of a College to form young adults into responsible and intellectual people. Through helping students understand the ways of life in their four years of learning, Colleges perform their duty in forming human beings. Colleges have a duty in teaching students of the things that matter–the things which transcend youth, social class, and money. The things which make us really human and intrinsically valuable. Therefore, when a College’s mission statement expresses a distinct goal in teaching its students how the world works, it fully becomes a College in acting with the nature of a college.
A College must have a challenging and well-ordered education. During my senior year of high school, I started taking basketball seriously. My confidence soared and I started receiving offers from schools. After receiving a scholarship offer to a school, I verbally accepted out of excitement. However, later in the school year, I realized that the school would not challenge me academically. I was already a decent AP student, graduating with honors, and I did not want to waste four years of my life by only being challenged physically, not mentally. I therefore decided that I needed to go to a school that would challenge me to be the best I could be at every moment. And only through pushing myself every day, I hoped I would get a little better each time. After recognizing this clear change in my expectations for College choice, I searched for a school which had a sound Mission statement and sure ways to achieve that. At the end of my search, I decided on going to a school where I had only the average or below average test scores. But that had an incredible faculty and community which I knew would help me in my growth.
Finally, just like College’s Latin derivative, College needs to be done together. Through community, students are able to motivate each other to be their best. Even though class and homework are important in helping students remember facts and major themes, have a strong community is a necessity in leading students to really understand things. Through discussion, students may express their ideas from their classes and explain through their own theories. In helping others understand concepts, students inevitably expand their own grasp of the subject. And through creating a positive learning environment, students help each other form the right attitudes towards their studies and learning.
A College is what students should attend and graduate as better people. They should be able to use the experiences they had in College to help explain and defend their own opinions, spreading sound ideas to the rest of the world. Many times, when students just choose a College based off of its party culture, they miss something important, something transcendent. They think that College is limited to just the four years they stay at a certain place, but don’t recognize that a College should be much more than that. Through attending a College that makes students question life to get a better understanding of life, students will inevitably carry their wisdom and new ways of approaching life with them.
As a college student, I think it is essential that I challenge myself by pushing myself out of my comfort level in order to learn. Last year, I was comfortable in my stable friend group, my major was clearly mapped out in my head, and I had a concrete plan for my future. This year, much has changed. I have become much more independent of my friend group, tried to branch out in meeting more people, especially in being an RA in a freshman dorm. I have integrated myself more with the basketball team, I have changed my major, and I have embraced higher expectations from my two jobs. And, although I have learned much from these challenges, I desired for a Hillsdale experience in the most holistic way. I wanted to produce something – claim something as my own. So, I signed up for two music classes: private piano lessons, and voice class. Having taken piano before, I had already known what to expect in myself. However, I really did not know if I could sing well or confidently in front of people, so taking the Beginning Voice Lesson forced me out of my comfort zone.
Throughout this semester, I have learned to incorporate my singing into the habits of daily life. In the past, I have had experience with singing. In elementary school, I took lessons with a homeschool teacher in a big group of people. In middle school, I joined my church’s middle school choir. When I listened to music with my sisters, we would all make it an event and sing-along. In addition, both my parents play the guitar, and every so often the whole family would come together to sing. Now, since I have been away from home, I have missed the joys of singing because I had not yet formed habits or groups with which to sing. After joining Beginning Voice Lesson, I have been able to see more opportunities for me to sing. Even though I have not gone out of my way to form new habits, I have been more aware of my voice and how I can incorporate sharing it in my daily life. At church, I have begun to be more conscientious of my voice and how I sing. I have been able to find more joys through singing at church because I make it a point to sound nice and confident. Also, I have attended more music events at the college because I have been more attentive to the music programs at Hillsdale. Thus, through taking Beginning Voice Lesson, I have been able to expand my horizon and experience things which I would have normally missed because I have been exposed to music.
Now, my voice has given me more ways of being joyful. When it is nice and sunny outside, I love to be active and play sports outside. But when it is rainy, gloomy, or cold, I can’t really do much of that. Instead, I know I can always go to a practice room inside and sing. Singing reminds me of all of the fun times I have had with my family. Especially when I listen to and sing Indie Rock songs, I am reminded of the times I drove my siblings to the beach with the car windows rolled down, and the times when I was the DJ on one of our big family road trips. Thus, through being more aware of my voice and music, I have been able to remember the little joys I once shared with my siblings and family.
Embracing my new ideal in experiencing Hillsdale in the most holistic way has helped me approach life at school with much more joy. Through singing, I have been able to remember the fun times with my loved ones, even though I will not see them for a long time. This summer, whenever I get homesick and want to think of the great times with my family, I now have a solution. I can sing the old campfire and Indie rock summer songs I used to sing with my family and remind myself of the emotions of happiness and joy and feel when I am with my family.
Last week, I discussed the line people need to walk with social media. I suggested that people need to be able to recognize when social media are appropriate to use, and when using them becomes an obsession. Now, I would like to continue this discussion and give more reasons to my claims. Social media become an issue when people prioritize social media over real life situations, giving media an unordered amount of attention. The dangers which result from an obsession with social media are not worth the temporal pleasures people experience through them.
The world is ordered. Once order is lost, chaos reigns. This is obvious through almost everything in daily life. When people pay attention to things that do not really matter, they may find it difficult to finally face the important things because their minds were not well prepared. Similarly, Love is ordered. When we love something out of its order, we glorify that thing, and can easily become used to treating that thing that way. For example, when we honor a good above an obviously greater good, we lose sight of the proper value of things and unjustly give attention to things. In Augustine's Confessions, Augustine discusses the hierarchy of goods. He states that all things are good in their proper place. So, food and drink are good. They both nourish our bodies and make us feel good. We get a certain amount of satisfaction when we eat and drink. Having friends is good too. We also receive satisfaction from relationships with others. But we do so in a much more meaningful way through learning, sacrifice, and charity. However, Augustine states that when we place our love for food and drink above our love of friendship, we inordinately love food and drink. We become obsessed with that good and undervalue what rightfully is a better good.
Ordering our lives well also includes ordering the love for the goods in our lives. Social media, albeit a good in this world, are things which can easily be mistreated. Once people start replacing the love they have for social media above the love for actual conversations, they undervalue real relationships and obsess over something too much. You may say, however, that social media is a way to enrich your relationship with someone else. And while this is true to a certain extent, depending on social media for all of the development of a relationship is dangerous. Social media, due to the fact that people who use it so often, can easily be a place where people falsely feel close to their "friends" or "followers." Through pictures and posts, you may feel like you are close to someone. But because there are no actual interactions, the only thing you learn about the other is facts. You miss every other good thing in a relationship with that other person. You feel as though you are right there with them, but you are not. You are by yourself on the couch, watching others live their lives separately. Social media can give you a false sense of being close with people even though in reality you are not. Thus, when people spend more time on social media than with people, they learn more about other people's lives than other people in actuality.
In another sense, Social media are dangerous because they force habits on those who are used to using them. Social media, as I mentioned earlier, gives people access to information–quick information. Through snapchat, people can see what others are doing just through the quick tap on the phone. And especially now, with snapchat's fairly recent News stories, people have easy access to a lot of quick information. Though oftentimes morally reprehensible and disgusting, these News stories supply the snapper with quick and easy stories just through the tap of a finger. It makes accessing the news much simpler. But also, it makes the reader accustomed to quick information. Through getting used to accessing information this way, with little time to actually process and think about the new information, the snapper may get lazy and desert other ways he gets news. He abandon critical thinking skills, eventually even just accepting what he says as true and never really finding out a truly accurate answer. He may get used to not asking himself "why," which will ultimately hurt him in the long run.
In total, social media, although a good, is a low good and must be treated thus. It is a way we use to communicate with one another, but it is merely a way. Once social media replace actual conversations, we have messed up somewhere. But it is not too late if you feel like social media have enslaved you. You can always just take a break from it. Periodically deleting apps on your phone may help you take space away from social media. I often delete apps off of my phone months at a time to ensure that I never become addicted to some. Using social media does not make you a bad person, but just like everything in life, goods are ordered, and are so justly. We must be careful to honor their places.
Social media have evolved exponentially in my lifetime. Through technological advancements, we are now able to send and share pictures with the people we love to help them understand our lives. Often, I use social media to share my experiences with my family back home. Through Facebook, I upload pictures of dances and adventures for my Facebook friends to see, and through snapchat I send snippets of my life to my siblings. These two things have fundamentally shaped my experience as an out-of-state student, and I would be completely different without the use of these applications. However, while these things have been beneficial to my relationships with other people, they have not had the ability to replace the human requirements of a good relationship. Whereas seeing other people through their posts on Facebook can help shape the physical image in the mind, actual human encounters are necessary to form and maintain real relationships and real images of the other person.
On Snapchat, Facebook, and Instagram, many people become satisfied with how many likes and comments they get, believing that their image is shaped into a popular one. They post pictures that make them look attractive, smart, or important, and create an image of themselves through how they are marketed. Then, those who see their posts take in that representation and interpret it their own way. Through these two things, personal marketing and interpretation of that marketing, social media mimic people's natural ways in representing themselves and forming judgement. But it is not a mirror-image reflection, and in no way replaces the essential consequences from face to face experiences. Through likes and comments, we get a surge of happiness, but it soon dwindles into nothingness because it is missing something essential to relationships--the human experience.
Through face to face experience, we present ourselves how we are in reality, and our beholders judge us for the way we are. When we receive compliments from people in reality, we are able to partake in a physical experience with someone else and share in the same experience. Real experiences with other people are much harder to forget than fifth comment on your last Facebook post, and leave us with the memory of an interaction with a real human being. When notifications on the phone start replacing the "hi's" and "hellos" in daily life, we start feeling lonely and forget about other people.
Now, you might say that you like social media not because you like posting things of yourself so that your friends can somehow share in your story, but because you like participating in your friends' lives. Be careful. Through just scrolling through facebook or tapping through snapchat, we may feel like we are closer to people by knowing what they are doing. But again, this does not replace face to face experience. We merely take in information and form judgements of other people without getting the full story. And, we may get caught up in worrying about our lives in comparison to others' lives. Through seeing other people's stories on snapchat and Facebook, we remove ourselves from our duties and responsibilities to our friends by the fact that we aren't there physically with them, experiencing what they are experiencing. It is harder, then, to respond to other people's experiences because we are not physically there with them.
So, while Facebook and Snapchat have helped me stay in contact with my family, they will never be able to replace that loving embrace with my sister, or that surf session with my brother. Nor will I ever get the same amount of satisfaction from a "happy birthday" post on my wall than from a shout out from a friend in public. From keeping an eye on how much I use social media and restricting myself from certain apps during the school week, I have been able to be more intentional with my relationships with others and more productive in my responsibilities at the time.
How to be intentional in all that we do
While I was in Spain, I learned a very important lesson. I haven’t exactly lived by this lesson every day, but it has shaped my viewpoint towards many of my activities. In Spain, the people are practical. If they work, they focus all of their attention to their work. When they relax, they generally do not worry about other things. In other words, they focus on the task and the situation at hand, and do not worry too much about future or distant things. When applied to our daily lives, this lesson of intentionality can be very beneficial.
Once we become intentional about the things we do, we find clarity. In school, I used to go to class and take notes, but not try to memorize the lessons or themes. I would put that off until test preparation. But now, I have found that if I keep my brain very active in class by trying to memorize the lessons, thinking of questions to ask, and being much more involved with the class, studying for tests becomes less stressful. I comprehend the material much better and understand each small lesson in the bigger picture of the class. Thus, through understanding the role each lesson plays in the bigger concepts, I learn the material better.
To be intentional, we must keep the bigger end in mind. In class, sometimes it is hard to stay focused. But it is important to remind ourselves that we are here to learn. Doing homework, writing essays, and taking notes has been the way we have chosen to learn, but the end goal is to comprehend the material. Once we recognize that, it may be easier to understand the roles each activity plays in our steps of learning. We should try to be fully focused in the tasks at hand. When we are doing homework, we should only think about homework. When we are working out, we should focus on working out, and not with what we have to do afterwards. When we are socializing, we should focus on our relationships, and actually relax so that we are refreshed for the next thing which will come.
Being intentional in everything will not just help our strivings in academics, but it will help with everything we do. It will increase the amount of energy and focus we can place in each of our commitments because we won’t feel exhausted from thinking about each little thing so much. It will also give us a peace of mind in knowing that we did the best we could with what we had. And that is probably one of the most important benefits. Most people’s harshest critics are themselves. So, once they can overcome any negative mental battles and recognize that they did the best they could in their situations, then they will be able to be free from their harsh criticisms.
Jessica De Gree
Jessica teaches English as a second language in Spain and plays basketball professionally there. She recently received her Bachelor's degree from Hillsdale College, one of the nation's top Liberal Arts schools in MI. At Hillsdale, she played basketball and studied English and Spanish. Some of her hobbies include reading, writing, painting, surfing, and playing the piano.