As the days of my extended summer vacation disappear, I’m becoming more aware of how college has changed me in the last four years. While most changes are for the better, I have noticed my increasingly lackluster efforts to pursue passions other than beating out my competition and being the type of person I think I should be. In simpler terms, I’m wondering, “Have I lost myself in this crazy thing called college?”

Sometimes I question whether or not coming to the University of Texas was the best decision for my future. Was it fun? Heck yeah it was. Did I meet great people? Sure. Was my education superior? I think so. What I did not get from the University of Texas was a green light to explore my creativity and look past what most people consider a successful college experience i.e., finding a full-time job after graduation, making good grades, partying until the next 8 a.m. class, and making life-long friends.

Why didn’t we learn to appreciate the knowledge we so helplessly cram into our heads hours before a midterm worth 50% of our grade? It’s sad that many of us believe that our college educations are “useless” and only a prerequisite for receiving a “piece of paper worth thousands” at the end of our college careers. Furthermore, we haven’t learned that we do not have to conform to the standards of success set forth by society because if not for all deviations from societal norms in the past, history would not have seen the progression we have made and take for granted every day.

Something is missing from our education system nowadays. Besides the obvious (i.e. FUNDING), we need to get away from the idea that grades and grade point averages generated by a system that constrains us from spiritual and self-actualizing development are a measure of who we we really are. What we need to do is enjoy our ability to learn material, dissect knowledge, and synthesize ideas so that we can add value to society and not just become a part of it.

For those who are still in college, learn from my mistakes. Study and go to class in order to better yourself and the world. Don’t learn because you need to make an ‘A’. Don’t learn because you need to get into law school. Learn because your mind is the most powerful organ in your body, and when we do not energize it with the right mentality, we cheat ourselves of potential that could change the world. And if you do get an ‘A’, that’s just an added bonus.