If you have ever spent a summer in State College, as I am currently, you can’t help but notice how different this place is. Empty sidewalks, quiet streets, and a community devoid of that unique energy found only in college towns like ours. Watching a town change so dramatically in what seems like the blink of an eye makes you think, and lately I’ve been thinking a lot about what this place has taught me.
If you’re reading this, please know that I’m no more qualified to give advice about how you ought to spend your college years than anyone else. I would like for this senior column, in its brevity, to be different by simply pointing out something you may have already noticed about Penn State but is worth putting into words.
Nowadays, everyone seems to talk about college as if it’s a transaction between you and the institution. We use metrics like starting salary and how much money you’ll make one day to determine whether or not college was a good investment of your time and money. In other words, metrics like these are increasingly referred to as the only form of return on your investment.
The observation I’ve made is that these metrics are not exhaustive. In fact, I think there is a far better metric you can use to measure your return on investment: the people who are in your life now but weren’t before you came here.
The lives you’ve been a part of, the memories you’ve created, and the friendships that will last a lifetime. These are the things Penn State affords you.
There is a saying that could apply here: “power is really just the people you collect.” While the use of the words “power” and “collect” make this phrase sound sinister, I believe the logic behind the phrase makes perfect sense. Think of “power” as new opportunities, new networks, and new relationships that will serve you well forever. This is what you gain through the people who are in your life now but would not have been without your college experience.
So to those of you who have not yet graduated and those who wonder if Penn State is really the place for them, cherish these years and especially the people you meet along the way. They are your best return on investment and the experiences you share with them will forever be more important than whatever metric you use now.
Invest big and enjoy the returns for life.
This post was written by Terry Ford, 2016-2017 President of the University Park Undergraduate Association, as a guest column for Onward State.