Though summer is not officially over until September 22, the summer break has ended for schools and students are back in classes. Some are beginning their first year of college or seminary, excited for the journey ahead and overwhelmed by the amount of work each class requires. Others are beginning what they hope to be their final year and looking forward to graduation.
No matter where you are at the beginning of this year, you will probably hit a point in the coming months when you ask yourself, “Why am I doing this?” Maybe you’ve already asked yourself that upon receiving the syllabi; perhaps you’ll ask yourself that sometime in November at 3 am as you try to finish a major paper or project; or maybe you’ll ponder that question at the end of another break from school. So it might be helpful to answer the question now. Why are you in school?
There are two very common answers I’ve heard that seem related. “I’m here to get my degree/diploma,” or “I’m here to get a job.” Many are in school so that they can be trained for a career. Others are there to get the degree they need to accomplish their goal—which is often to get a job. Neither of those responses are bad answers. In fact, I would think both should be significant reasons why people are in school. But I’d like to suggest a better answer for believers that can incorporate the above reasons.
As a believer, a better answer to the question “Why am I in school?” is “I want to be prepared for the life I believe God wants me to live.” That life will certainly include a career to be pursued for God’s glory, but it also includes other aspects of life (family, ministry, society, etc.) This answer points us to a helpful distinction between pursuing a degree and pursuing an education.
A good college or seminary education does not have the sole intention of providing a degree in order to obtain a job. Rather, the best colleges and seminaries equip their students to face the challenges of life. They do not simply provide knowledge or skills for particular professions, but knowledge and skills for successful living. They require students to take a broad range of classes—classes not directly related to their major—in order to form a foundation for real education. They help students know how to learn, to have the ability to read, listen, and understand. They help students know how to think, to weigh different pieces of information and reach reasoned conclusions. They help students know how to communicate, to effectively share information with others through writing and speaking. These and other skills will help in any profession, but more importantly they will help in life.
Pursuing an education allows you to maximize your schooling. If you are simply pursuing a degree, you will try to accomplish that goal as quickly and efficiently as possible. You will be more concerned with passing classes than mastering the material. You will be more likely to do the minimum requirements than to pursue excellence. You will be more likely to try to finish as quickly as possible rather than go at the pace necessary for you to learn. But if you are pursuing an education to prepare you for the life God wants you to live, then you will want to make the most of every course, every encounter, every opportunity that is provided to help prepare you for that life.