Should Colleges Make Students Feel Comfortable?

This week I read a thought-provoking article from Inside Higher Ed. The article describes the programs being initiated by a few colleges and universities to provide some students with extra spending money in addition to their financial aid to cover personal expenses. Some examples from the article include winter coats, newer laptops, and “dorm room necessities”.

The rationale for these funds can be summed in by this quote from the article: “I came from a family of seven, and when I got to campus, I had no spending money, or very minimal spending money. It was tough,” [Colby College alumni and donor] Nancy Weiland said. “It’s nice to give these kids financial aid to get them there, but once they get there, they have to be comfortable.

This article provokes the question: should college be comfortable?

Now, we can debate all we want about the specific challenges or merits of these personal funding programs. But the real question is whether the idea of making college comfortable should even be a goal of universities.

Preparing for the Real World

College is often seen as the final (formal) step in the journey of life preparation before young adults launch into the rest of their life.

Of course, we know that nobody comes out of college fully prepared for life. That process transcends a formal college education. 

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But practically, college is often viewed as the doorway into adulthood.

Should that transition be as comfortable as possible?

What if we’re actually doing young adults a disservice by making college as comfortable as possible? What if, by doing so, we’re failing to prepare them for the real challenges they will face after college.

Life is uncomfortable in a lot of ways. Even in the affluent and privileged Western world, we face uncomfortable relationships, situations, and problems. We should be preparing young adults to handle those challenges, not shielding them from them.

Introducing Failure

Young adults are going to face a lot of failure in life. They should start practicing now! Students are going to face problems, needs, and challenges in life. They should start practicing now!

I’m not suggesting that students at college who don’t have any money should starve. Like I mentioned above, the merits of these funding programs are a whole other debate. The point I’m trying to make here is that we shouldn’t try to shield students from responsibility, challenges, failure, and discomfort. And we certainly shouldn’t think that money is the root solution to all these problems.

The more that college life looks different than life outside college, the more of a disservice we do to young adults who attend university. They live in a bubble where parties are always happening, cafeteria food is always available, and they have few day-to-day responsibilities. This kind of lifestyle is almost non-existent in the real world. And students who are trained up for life in one kind of environment and then dumped into the next without warning will struggle tremendously. 

It’s not that we should intentionally make students’ lives harder than they need to be. But it’s not a bad idea to let them face the discomfort and challenges of life head-on and come out the other side a stronger person.

Ascend is a program that equips students for life in the real world. Students in Ascend wrestle with real challenges and problems and find real solutions. Ascend is a higher education and life preparation program where both failure and success actually mean something. Have questions about the program? Sign up for a FREE, no-commitment consultation today!

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