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Calling for change in collegiate culture

By Mike Meiler
On December 6, 2012


Five-and-a-half years, three majors and three schools later, it's actually almost over.
My time as a college student is winding down. After this semester, I'll be set to graduate
(or, probably more likely, return as a part-time student as I finish my degree). I'll be off
campus, focusing on an attempt at a career while finishing up whatever it is I'll need to
do to walk across the stage after the spring semester.
It's a strange place to be. Since the majority of us were three or four years old, we've
been through daycare, preschool and eventually the rest of our academic career.
We've defined ourselves as students for somewhere around 20 years, and in less than
ten days (or a few months for those of you finishing in the spring), that period of our
lives will be over. The end of our scholastic career, at whatever level it may be, is the
clearest youth-to-adult transformation we'll ever face.
Looking back, I've realized that the college experience changes you. If you're the same
exact person you were the first day of your freshman year, the institution may have
failed you.
What college makes you realize is that there are more important things than, well,
college. We enter school worried about GPAs and dean's lists, but then come to
understand that those things are nothing more than designations that tell you nothing
about a person. They have no more real value than the degree we're spending tens of
thousands of dollars to attain.
What is important, though, is the ability to think. College, along with our other academic
ventures, teaches us to think critically, which is far more important than whatever facts
we may memorize on our way to a high GPA.
Developing critical thinking should be the primary goal of every college. It's far more
important than grades or a diploma. I'd challenge anyone to name a field where fact-
based study is more important than critical thinking; journalists, teachers, doctors,
artists, etc. all need to be able to problem solve in some capacity.
Buffalo State does a pretty good job of focusing on the ability to problem solve. But how
much of that a student takes out of his or her classes is dependent upon the individual.
There are some classes that help a student learn to think, and there are others that
students will take to simply pass. As a simply-passer myself, I'd encourage all students
to take classes that will make them think, no matter the level of difficulty.
I've learned more in the four or five classes I've taken in college that actually challenged
me than I have in all the others combined, and the skills you learn in those classes will
better translate to the real world.
I truly believe grades don't matter outside of their ability to keep you in school. There's
a miniscule chance they help you get a job right out of school. Internships, experience
and connections will do more in an interview than a high GPA. Once you're in a field for
two or three years, your GPA is obsolete.
What will put you ahead is the ability to think critically and solve problems, which can't
be measured effectively by grades. Focus on that and job experience, and you'll have a
much better jump on the competition than you will with a 4.0.
Mike Meiler can be reached by email at, or followed on Twitter

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