• Classes: Within the course structure are classes, delivered by faculty (generally exclusive to that university) in restricted settings (physical classrooms) owned by the university and with an infrastructure of exams, tests and grades that affirms to outsiders that students have taken and mastered the content in these classes. Students in these classes learn from interactions (usually live) with the faculty and other students and can get help from tutors or teaching assistants for these classes. In special cases, students that have an intense interest in a topic may be get mentoring and advice from faculty who are (presumably) experts on that topic.
  • Networking: Even those of you who have been victimized by the “old boy (or old girl)” network have to admit that it works remarkably well at taking care of those who are lucky enough to be part of it. The networks that are created when you are a student at an educational institution may provide you with job openings, employment options and business opportunities later in life. This can be augmented by smaller networks also created by sub-groups (fraternities and sororities) at schools.
  • Career advice: Recognizing the economic imperatives that most students face in terms of getting employment after their education, universities have invested (some more than others) in providing both career advice and placement services.
  • Entertainment: While this may sound irreverent, it is reality that a portion of the college experience is entertainment. Whether it be going to football games at Alabama or Notre Dame, enjoying a concert on campus or just people-watching on Sproul Plaza on Berkeley, you don’t realize how much fun you have in college, until you graduate (and get into the real world, where such entertainment is more difficult to find, more expensive and expose you to more danger). At the risk of sounding cynical, I would also include as part of entertainment, the semester abroad programs that schools love to tout as a “bargain educational experience in exotic foreign locales,’ since there is generally more fun to be had in your semester abroad in Spain, France, Brazil, and Italy than learning.
  • Education: There is a final fuzzy component that universities claim to aspire to deliver, though there is no way of measuring whether they deliver on the promise. “Send your 18-year old to us”, they say, “and and we will turn them into educated people.”  A Harvard panel defined educated people as those who “leave school with a deep understanding of themselves and how they fit into the world and have learned how solve complex problems, be creative and entrepreneurial, manage themselves and to be life long learners.”

This post originally appeared on the blog WallStreetOasis.com.


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