Liberal Arts or the Art of Schmoozing

Ahh the fabled college search process. My parents called it a game. The superfluous extra-curriculars all in chase of that defining mark on your college resume: AP classes, Habitat for Humanity, Mathletes, band camp, SAT tutoring, Science Olympiad, Ultimate Frisbee club, Model U.N. and teacher recommendations all fall short of “the hook.” Would people even do social service if it wasn’t listed in the activities section of the common application? Did Mother Teresa and the College Board team up to trick vulnerable overachievers into doing social service? Every year college-bound teens participate in the archetypal college admissions process in which a lifetime of experiences is reduced to a resumé and three essays. The bane of every high-schooler’s existence, every morsel of their humanity and dignity, the very condition that motivates the breath they take, comes to fruition, and is either accepted or rejected.

Do you ever wonder why so many siblings end up attending Colgate? It’s because they make the best tour guides. No high school senior cares about what the library/student center/freshman dorm looks like. You know why? Because they’re the same at every school. If I were a tour guide, my tours would start at a fraternity party and end in the Jug. Now don’t get me wrong, there’s more to college than that. But why is it that every single college tour is exactly the same? No one cares if [insert name] University has a thriving Lawn Bowling Intramural League. Think about what makes you love Colgate. Now think back to your tour; it almost definitely wasn’t mentioned. At the gates of Heaven, when God judges our actions in college, he uses pencil and a divine eraser. When Santa judges if we are “naughty or nice,” he takes a few extra liberties with us college students. I realized Colgate was the place I could bask in debauchery for four years while receiving my education, and maybe attend the occasional class.

Everyone says you just know when a school is the right fit because there is a feeling you have on campus. True, but that feeling is not felt within the hallowed stone confines of James B. Colgate Hall, but rather the Old Stone Jug. I’ll stick by my choice of Colgate until the day I die, but for all the wrong reasons. There was no due diligence in my decision to attend Colgate. I made a choice on a whim based on a weekend of drinking when I was in high school, but as it turns out, the criteria that I used in my inebriated state on that college visitation trip are the ones I probably should have used in all those session with my parents and that overpriced college admissions counselor around my kitchen table four years ago.

If you’re reading this right now, you probably love Colgate. So let’s be honest with ourselves about the reasons we love Colgate. It’s not because of the Vis lab in Ho or because we have extensive theme housing along Broad Street. It’s because your experiences and interactions with the people here at Colgate make you a better and more interesting person. It’s because Colgate equips you to handle the pressures of the real world. And it’s also because Colgate is a hell of a good time. Now why don’t we put that in a brochure in the admission building?

When we leave Colgate, the content of our experience culminates and is again reduced to one line on the resumé of life. Yet in college we grow in ways more profound than could ever be expressed on a piece of paper. The lasting images are those we have when we are most vulnerable. We love Colgate because it challenges us in the most basic sense. In Plato’s Apology, Socrates proclaims, “The unexamined life is not worth living.” College forces us to re-examine those core values that fundamentally guide our humanity. We gain knowledge of our ignorance, we become more aware of the questions, not the answers. The things we hold sacred from our time here are preserved not on paper, but in spirit: in our demeanor, character, and most basic world view. And if this is what’s most important, we must cultivate these memories, take chances, and be vulnerable. Life can’t just be one eternal resumé. Might as well have a good time.