Having spent far too much time dealing w/ academics, I’ve had the time to gain a few opinins via both good and awful experiences.
The Bad Stuff
Bad teachers can kill your will to learn. There were plenty of classes where I realized how little work was needed and I was able to make better use of my time by hitting the library or preparing for other classes. Classes that expect little from their students will get that back in return. You learn to see who is actually burning calories trying to communicate and who is filling in the hours, or even worse doing damage to your will to learn. There’s a trait you can see for those who have the gift of appearing knowledgeable but there’s a pretty shallow pond to that knowledge and you realize that they know more about how to keep their job than how to teach.
Way too much focus on academic wanking and arguemnts about nonsense. They can be fun, but looking back they were mostly empty calories.
The Good Stuff
access to time
I never had a much time as I did as a student. Even when taking 18 hours of classes and working 2-3 jobs there was always extra time comparing to working 40+ hours in a straight job, maintaining a relationship and taking care of a home. This was a greatest time to look into every interest I had and dive into whatever I wanted at the library.
access to materials
While not as relevant now, having access to a well stocked studio for 80 hours or so a week was fantastic for me. I spent more time at the studio then I did my own home and was really the only time I felt that I learned anything applicable about music. During my senior year while still balancing a job and prepping for a senior composition recital I spent as much time as possible in the studio, trying every plugin, microphone, instrument possible to learn what will work. The great side affect was in these early days of digital recording gave me plenty of time to learn how to troubleshoot. I learned how to break problems down into the smallest components and think logically through the issue.
I had a few, not enough. The good ones changed the way I thought and the bad ones taught me how to sniff out BS. You learn to see who is actually burning calories tring to communicate and who is filling in the hours, or even worse doing damage to your will to learn.
College was a pretty normal distribution in terms of ass kicking. The first couple of years were tough. Having never really gotten out of a small town, it was a bit overwhealming. Once I came to grips with the environment I buried myself in work, pushing myself as far as possible in terms of missing sleep by never workouts. I was able to reign it in after awhile and managed to focus more on what truly needed to get done. Through my senior year of college and the year-and-a-half of grad school I felt that I really made progress and pushed myself as far as possible. This was the feeling I was looking for when I went back to school for a PhD (enormous bust) and even a second masters (very expensive bust).
It’s good to remember that these waves come and go and do the same in any work environment. After a couple of years of crappy jobs I think I’m at a place where I can kick ass again for awhile.