Peer Groups Continued

When I first wrote about “Peer Groups” last winter, I had meant to include this great article by Marina Keegan, “The Opposite of Loneliness“.

Many people have questioned me on what brought me back to Wake Forest, and I was not confident in my answer for a long time. Maybe it’s because we really don’t have a word for the opposite of loneliness. I knew it had something to do with people, but I couldn’t get it exactly right because I also felt that the people I met through Y Combinator and the Thiel Fellowship are many of the people I respect and admire the most.

I re-read this article recently, and I think it succinctly describes why I am in school right now. She describes the atmosphere at Yale as the following:

It’s not quite love and it’s not quite community; it’s just this feeling that there are people, an abundance of people, who are in this together. Who are on your team. When the check is paid and you stay at the table. When it’s four a.m. and no one goes to bed. That night with the guitar. That night we can’t remember. That time we did, we went, we saw, we laughed, we felt. The hats.

This is the essence of a collegial experience. Many people often correlate college with studying for tests, paying a lot of money, solving structured problems, sports teams, societies, clubs, reading, etc. And I believe this line of thought is partially a fallacy.

A college can indeed be an educational institution with goals of teaching and expanding human knowledge, but it can also be “a group of professional people with particular aims, duties, and privileges”[1]. Such as the electoral college, or the American College of Surgeons.

I like the residential college experience, and I think you will find that most people do. It’s for the same reasons why people feel secure at big companies once they graduate from “college”.

When I was living in California and New York, my sense of being was constantly bombarded with feelings of insecurity. There were no group texts, serendipitous lunch meetings, familiar faces on a daily run, or a friend to share a joke with at the gym. I have found that this insecure feeling is naturally what happens when you are working alone in a place where there is no daily reminder of shared responsibility and goals.

So, while I do agree that many of the requirements, excessive cost, and arbitrary assignments do waste time and resources, I think a collegial experience is absolutely necessary. This is why nearly every four-year college requires freshman to live on campus. If experiments such as the Thiel Fellowship or higher-education alternatives are going to thrive, they will need to offer a collegial experience.

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John Marbach

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09 2013