Tom Ross: A second chance at college

This time around, I would take no prisoners

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Tom Ross

Tom Ross' column appears in Steamboat Today. Contact him at 970-871-4205 or tross@SteamboatToday.com.

Find more columns by Tom here.

— Dear folks, I know this will come as a surprise, but I want to go back to college. Send money for textbooks. I'll handle the out-of-state tuition.

I'm mostly kidding about going back to campus. However, if I decided to take the leap, things would be different this time around.

After spending a whirlwind two days on an idyllic college campus this month, I found myself missing the intellectual stimulation that's difficult to find off campus. College students have it good - really good.

There's a palpable buzz on a college campus. Students are challenging conventional wisdom and debating the meaning of great films. They're creating art, exploring music and rebelling against society. They also are universally oblivious to how fleeting four years on campus really is.

I'm not asking to be 21 years old again - I know my fate. I just want another crack at the course work, with all the benefits of knowing what I know now and didn't know then. I think I'd actually look forward to writing term papers. Bring it on.

Grant me this improbable wish, and I promise not to skip classes. I promise to visit professors during office hours until they learn to recognize my approaching footsteps and hide beneath their desks. I'll even promise not to go out to the Kollege Keg on Wednesday nights. In fact, I'll be in bed on Wednesday nights. And not out of choice. I'll be snoring long before the hour when I used to step out back in 1972.

I still want to attend the football games and buy the cheap season tickets in the student section, but I promise to lay off the Southern Comfort and Coca-Cola.

If you let me go back to college, I'll promise to take greater advantage of opportunities outside the classroom. I'll even attend lectures by visiting professors of political science.

I'll live in the dorms if I can have a single. And now that dormitory cafeterias have omelet chefs, fresh pizza and salad bars, I think I could even survive on the meal plan.

Enrolled once again in college, I'd study natural resource policy issues, the history of photography, fine art bookmaking and the impact of the revolution in mass communications on developing nations.

Many of you will relate to this. On my first trip around the merry-go-round at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, I wasn't ready to become a serious student. I bloomed socially as a freshman in college and was more intent on making friends than on making A's.

I was also misguided and obstinate. I set out to become a research biologist even though I knew I didn't have an aptitude for chemistry. How goofy is that?

I had a bad habit of missing classes if I caught a professor reading from his own textbook in front of 250 sophomores. Did I really think I was going to teach an associate professor of psychology a lesson by boycotting his lectures?

I'm still not convinced that grades matter. But I am convinced that in many cases, college is wasted on callow youth. And I'm certain that in some ways, mature adults are better prepared to take advantage of advanced education.

Take me back!

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