Saturday, October 11, 2014

Ajey and his college search

I grew up with many cousins and have many stories to share about that time. But one in particular pops up time to time.
Today on this rainy and gloomy day after reading Ajey’s face book post I felt weird and felt compelled to write. as a mom I want him to be happy and do what excites him but at the same time I want him to successful by his meanings and by society standard.
I am very close to all my cousins and today remind me of one in particular (who is 4 yrs older than me). I remember once we were talking about life we want. I was thinking I would want a simple, ordinary and traditional life and she was full of adventure and she would have loved the ups and downs of life. Fast-forward 20 years later she is living in a 100 miles area she grew up and went to school, living a typical life with her husband and two great kids. Having all her family around. And here I am continent away from all of them, living absolutely non-traditional and adventurous life.  My husband is such a different kind of man, a great husband and partner and kids are different thinkers. Our life and values don’t fit in a typical Indian or non-Indian style. Today’s ajey’s blog on facebook made me think. What do we do as parents to create such kids. I am a proud and worried mom today.
Next year this time he would be somewhere navigating his way around on his own, Hope he finds his path and achieve the success he wants not a traditional world.

Ajey - Oct 11th, 2014

I’m having an existential crisis about college. As I (haphazardly) vet colleges for curricula, research spots, and that mystical fog they call “school culture,” I keep asking myself: Is college worth hundreds of thousands in tuition? Is it worth the crushing stress I keep hearing about? Are my only two choices student debt and poverty?
Do I have to go to college?
Sure, college gives me an education. But I don’t need to pay $60,000 a year for that. There’s OpenCourseWare, Coursera, edX, and Khan Academy. I can learn multivariable calculus, mechatronics, cybersecurity, or whatever else my heart desires for free. I don’t have to endure cramped seats with near-useless desks. I don’t have to struggle not to sleep in an 8AM lecture. I don’t have to panic about missing material because I zoned out for a minute. I can learn whatever I want, whenever I want, with just the Internet and an open mind.
Oh, but then I can’t talk to professors! I can’t work in labs, where the real learning happens! Actually, I can. I can contact professors -- their emails are all online -- and ask for unpaid work in their labs. If I ask around enough, at least one person will say yes, no matter how inexperienced I am. I’ve done it, and I have a now-defunct college ID and some rudimentary coding experience to prove it. And eventually, after a few online courses and unpaid internships, some lab might actually pay me, thanks to something called “job experience.” Sure, the check would be small, but it would sure beat a tuition bill.
And no, I would not miss out on college life. I could still eat out, talk to people, go to clubs, and do...whatever else sociable people do. Dorms don’t have the monopoly on friendship. Campus centers don’t have locked doors. And frat parties probably don’t check for college IDs. Why should I drain my parents’ 401(k) to have a social life? Coffee shops abound, food is already inevitable, and no one turns down Super Smash Bros. And that’s all *I* need to find friends.
So the only reason left to attend college is, “You need that diploma.” But do I? I’m going into engineering, not medicine or academia. Instead of college, I could take lab work and side jobs, which would still give me the experience, skills, and contacts that would help me get a *real* job later on. Why get an embroidered piece of paper that says I can engineer when I can get a resume that says so instead? Employers won’t care about college after my first job, so why not replace college with real work?
Honestly, I could skip college and spend those four years as an educational nomad. I could jump between working in labs, moonlighting in retail, teaching remedial writing at a community college, contributing to a local magazine, learning Python or calculus online, making music, and simply observing the world. I would still get a solid education. I would still have a rigorous curriculum. And I would still set myself up for a solid career. But instead of walking out with a cloud of debt and vague memories of boring lectures, I would walk out with money in my pocket, real experience to build on, and the freedom that comes with being beholden to no one.
Which begs the question: Why am I still applying?