College Grads: How Has Obtaining Your Degree(s) Impacted Your Life?

An old friend of mine recently posed the question online recently and it got me thinking.

As a first-generation student of color who came up with a low SES, I have experienced an undeniable shift financially that has confirmed for me that all the long days, and late nights, all the times I had to say no to things, shift priorities, and even ignore the folks who may have told me I was wasting my time, was worth it.

That’s a hierarchy of needs piece where I cannot deny the fact that some of the things I used to be very concerned about are not issues for me at this particular time in life.

Obtaining my education has exposed me to opportunities that helped me to better understand and articulate myself about systems like white supremacy, patriarchy, capitalism, and other systems that so deeply contributed to the social problems I experienced growing up, and that continue to persist. It gave me language to name those systems in ways that I was not able to previously, although I already had experiences navigating them prior to attending school.

It’s enabled me to channel my rage…the constant state of rage James Baldwin described that accompanies being a relatively conscious negro in this country in ways that prevent me from being completely consumed by it, and has helped me to be in positions to help others channel theirs.

The experiences I had on my journey to obtaining higher education also aided in my developing a desire to identify ways  I am actively or passively complicit in the oppression of others so that I can work to change my own incomplete, incorrect, and harmful thought processes, in order to prevent actions of the same kind.

If I hadn’t gone to school, I would not have met many of the people, or had many of the experiences that contributed to the reasons why I write, and work.

There are certainly other things I could share, but I’d like to hear from others.

Acknowledging that there may be similarities and differences among us, if you graduated from college or obtained some other form of continuing education, how have those experiences, and the end result impacted your life?


From Aspiring Humanitarian, Relando Thompkins-Jones, MSW, LLMSW

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I'm a Social Justice Educator and Aspiring Humanitarian who is interested in conflict resolution, improving intergroup relations, and building more equitable and inclusive communities. "Notes from an Aspiring Humanitarian" is my blog, where I write about issues of diversity, inclusion, equity, and social justice. By exploring social identities through written word, film & video, and other forms of media, I hope to continue to expand and enrich conversations about social issues that face our society, and to find ways to take social action while encouraging others to do so as well in their own ways.

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4 Responses

  1. Kyle Minton says:

    My education has inspired in me a passion for critical thinking and the ability to contend with boredom. I could elaborate, but I usually default to David Foster Wallace when discussing the value of education: “it is about the real value of a real education, which has almost nothing to do with knowledge, and everything to do with simple awareness: awareness of what is so real and essential, so hidden in plain sight all around us, all the time, that we have to keep reminding ourselves over and over: ‘This is water. This is water.’

    It is unimaginably hard to do this, to stay conscious and alive in the adult world day in and day out. Which means yet another grand cliché turns out to be true: your education really is the job of a lifetime. And it commences now.”

    • Well said Kyle! Your words about education being the job of a lifetime really resonate with my own thoughts as seeing learning, including culminating moments like graduation as more of a beginning or continuation of a lifelong process, rather than the end of something.

  2. tunisiajolyn84 says:

    Good question. I’ve never thought about this but I believe that college exposed me to a greater understanding of my culture, the dynamic of my culture in American society, a variety of literature and how many ways words can be played around. It definitely made me a much better writer, a more thorough writer and to be honest, I wouldn’t be in the position I am as far as my career if it wasn’t for my degree so college helped me a lot. Also, my debt wasn’t super high thanks to my foresight so I was able to pay off my student loans in less than 10 years so that makes college even better. lol

    • Yes! I learned so much more about my culture after going to college, although I must admit that I still had to work relatively hard to find that information. I’m happy that you had the foresight to be able to pay off those student loans in less than 10! Financial literacy is so important! At the forefront of my mind right now is how important it is to communities of color and their intersections with other marginalized identities. I hope you share that knowledge with others who are willing to listen! I feel like I won something just from hearing you share that!

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