The privilege and gift of liberal arts education

Carly Matthews, Staff Writer

As liberal arts students, we are extremely fortunate to have the chance to go to a four-year college and the luxury of spending those years figuring out what we want to do with our lives. The world expects us to know what we want to do with our lives at the age of 18. They want us to choose a major, choose a career, and figure out our entire lives before we are 20. While there has been pushback against this idea and people are becoming more accepting of college as a means of self-discovery, it is important to understand that not everyone has that opportunity. 

Liberal arts education is inaccessible for some people due to financial reasons. There are those who must immediately enter the workforce while trying to balance night classes and/or community college, or even bypass higher education as a whole. But as students at Westmont, we have the freedom to explore who we want to be in the safety of the liberal arts college bubble. Taking classes just because they sound interesting, not declaring a major until the end of your second year, and having access to a well-rounded curriculum, are all staples of the classic liberal arts experience and are especially helpful when you’re unsure what field you want to pursue. 

With that, it’s important to take advantage of your time here. If you have space in your schedule, take a class for the fun of it. Maybe you have always wanted to learn how to use a ceramics wheel but have never had the chance. Maybe you have been working out but don’t know if you are using the weight machines properly. Maybe you and your friend take a class together simply because you don’t get to see each other in your busy schedules and both of you are interested in the topic. Westmont also gives us the option to audit classes, meaning that you get to sit in and learn the material but don’t have to take the tests or do the readings if you don’t want to. Auditing a class doesn’t count for any credit, but it’s a fun choice to have if you have the time. There’s also the option to not overload your schedule in order to give yourself more time to explore activities outside the classroom. Sports teams, interacting with the Santa Barbara community, or finding internships in fields that you are interested in are all ways to take advantage of your college years and further your self development.

Do not waste this time. Work hard in your classes, have experiences outside of them, spend time reflecting on who you want to be and what you want to do. Take this gift and do something with it, because not everyone gets this time. Having the freedom to become who you want to be in college is amazing. Being able to take classes because they seem fun is incredible. We should not feel guilty because we have this chance. However, we should also recognize how extremely privileged this lifestyle is, in that we are able to take time to discover ourselves and learn for the sake of learning.