Sad or not, I’ve placed most of my life around the frame of my undergraduate career (BH and AH, “Before Hillsdale” and “After Hillsdale.”)
So I’m often reminded of how many years have passed since I left Michigan, and how surreal it is to be a student once more.
Much is still the same, unfortunately. Higher education badly needs reform, and I truly hope to be a link between it and the outside world. But a few things have changed in the half-decade since I left:
1. I have no attention
My attention is now fried.
As an undergrad, I required the most remote corner of the library. I wanted noise-cancelling headphones. No music, no way. I studied for hours on end with little distraction.
Now the library is too quiet, I need music, and, worst of all — I can’t focus on the task at hand. Flipping between social media, sales reports, anything but the article I’m reading (partly due to its terrible writing — see #3).
It’s hard to believe that smartphones were quite rare when I was an undergrad, and the iPad was just coming out my last semester. I am almost grateful this stuff wasn’t around when I was in school — it has ruined my attention.
2. Google owns everything
Not just the search engine. Or your phone’s OS.
No, entire universities now run on Google Apps. Researchers hop on Google Scholar to find papers. Students communicate on Gmail and Google Hangouts.
Again, this demonstrates the increased digitization since I left campus. I could be wrong, but I don’t remember Scholar or Hangouts being a big thing five-ten years ago. Now, everything is networked.
Scary that it’s all under one umbrella, no?
3. Everything is on YouTube (owned, of course, by Google)
Academic writing seems intended to obfuscate. I received nearly a perfect score on my GRE Verbal and can barely get through most of it. So the problem might not entirely be me.
I’m not afraid to admit that when I’m not getting something, I search YouTube for a video tutorial.
And guess what? There’s always a video on it, no matter how obscure.
I would have never considered searching YouTube for help as an undergrad. But that was back before the MOOC revolution.
4. Entrepreneurship is more accessible, but nobody knows how to do it yet
Two decades of Dilbert has done its job: people see what awaits them after graduation, and would like to avoid it.
That’s a start!
As an undergrad I had no idea my future — I naively thought I’d fall into the job of my dreams solely on the basis of my wonderful education. It was passive: I was not thinking entrepreneurially.
The internet has made entrepreneurship more accessible since then. The bad part is, college is still not teaching the skills to compete in an information economy.
5. It’s fancier
College costs are rising, and maybe, just maybe this has to do with things like the architecture.
My first job was in a warehouse — no, literally, they took a warehouse and converted it into an office space. Absolutely no windows and no cell phone connection.
Space was so scarce at my second job that I was in a cubicle the size of a phone booth. The ceiling in the stairwell leaked every time it rained and went unpatched for months. The temperature dipped so low in the winter that I had to wear gloves (with the fingers punched out to type, of course).
Could you imagine this happening at a university?
Everything is state of the art. No matter where I sit to study, I realize that I have better digs than the majority of private sector executives.
Maybe this hasn’t changed in the last few years, but it has become more dramatic, and I’ve noticed it more after years of spartan corporate living.
Other changes? Thoughts?
If you’ve flittered between campus and corporation, what changes have you noticed?