My second year at the University of Minnesota has taught me a lot of things. I think the most important and continuous lesson is that I am SO lucky. I have spent so much time learning about students who don’t have the same opportunity that I, as well as many other students, take for granted every single day in regards to my education.
A few weeks ago one of my favorite education professors whom used to work in admissions for the University of Minnesota told us a story. He explained that we, the students in his class and all of the other students in attendance at this school, had been the lucky winners of a ticket into the door here. He told each of us to think about the specific seat we were sitting in and then think about the fact that five other students in just our individual seats were rejected. We were the 1/5 that made the cut. The most shocking thing he said came next. He explained that parents and students have begged for him & the other UMN admission team to let them attend the R1 University but that they were denied. That students would literally kill to be in the seats that we were in, and have the same educational fortune.
This concept really resonated with me for a few reasons.
First, it really hit me how much I take school for granted. It has almost become routine for me to complain about professors, homework, & how bored I am sitting in class everyday. How easy it is for me to procrastinate, not put in effort and even skip class sometimes for a shopping splurge or an ocasional long nap before work. Here I am complaining about going to class when their are students who would KILL to have my seat in the class, or my place at the University. Student’s who have probably worked twice as hard as I have. Student’s who are probably twice as smart as I am. Student’s who would never complain, listen to every word the professor says and never even think about skipping class.
Second, the fact that I was so easily convinced that I would be accepted. Here I was, a senior in high school, just expecting to go onto college, like it was nothing out of the ordinary-nothing special, significant or meaningful. It was just something you do. I didn’t apply to any other school because I just expected to get into the U. While I did get into the U, and obviously still attend the school- how ignorant. How lucky am I-are we- that we can have that mentality. The mentality that implies that school is an automatic response to high school graduation. By no means am I saying we don’t deserve it, because I know as well as anyone to get into college takes a lot of hard work during your high school years but still most of us just expect that it will happen. For so many-thats not the case. So many people can’t afford college, don’t have the resources to gain admission, or don’t even have the option of completing or attending high school.
Third, even aside from being enrolled in college-I take my education for granted. Think of all the things that education enables you to do during your years in school, but also the years after. Just to name a few, it helps gain knowledge, experience, mentors, jobs, money, connection, and more. My professor told us that even after college, the relationships and connections you make during your time as a student could also help you reap in benefits after graduation. He explained that those who attended your school, take care of those who attend your school. Your network of connections provides you with even more favorable outcomes.
Fourth, it made me think about how this opportunity isn’t even applied to everyone in the US. Student’s here and outside of the country don’t have the same educational equality that I do. When traveling in Amsterdam this past summer, I was informed by my tour guide that student’s there take a placement test at the age of 12 that most likely determines whether or not they will attend college (obviously there is probably loopholes & such) but wow. How stressful as a twelve year old taking a test that essentially seals your educational fate. Here, we have the opportunity to work hard, or not work hard-but overall still have an option to move further. In this same class of mine, we focus on the idea of knowing privilege, how it acts as a power, and most importantly what you can do with that power. I consider myself to be privileged. As a woman of privilege who is lucky enough to have the option of attending college, what is it that I can do to ensure my privilege isn’t going to waste or being taken for granted?
Lastly, when I say “we”, I am referring to those of us who have experienced this privilege- whether you jumped on it or not. Whether you are about to start college, are enrolled in it currently, have graduated or have taken a break- you still have had the opportunity to further your education. As a current student and a future educator, I believe it’s my job to appreciate the privilege that I have been given. I believe I should be soaking in everything that it has to offer me and using my knowledge to better the next generation of youth who have dreams of going to college. It is my job to use my knowledge and education to better the future, help aid those who might not have the same opportunity that I do, and guide them on a path that provides them with the opportunity that they deserve.
So, just remember next time your whining about your upcoming midterms, or are thinking of skipping a class, or are complaining about your professors and classes that you are lucky. You are so lucky so stop taking your education for granted.