What are the benefits and drawbacks of attending universities?

On 20180503, I learned from two senior faculty members that university grades must be a normal distribution, regardless of the class performance [1]. Otherwise, the instructor will be questioned. Therefore, for university students in the same course, it’s sadly a zero sum game. If our peers are hardworking and motivated, the competition gets more intense.

To attract talented students, universities give scholarships. If all students get A, it would be challenging for universities to distinguish those who deserve merit-based scholarships.

One of the faculty members, whom I learned about calmness from, shared that if every exam is like TOEFL where it’s unlikely that one will get very low score, then every student will be very happy. However, to achieve higher TOEFL scores (e.g. > 550 or 600 for paper based out of max 677), the difficulty increases non-linearly.

Honestly, I was a pretty good exam taker. While I am not a native English speaker, I scored 650/677 for TOEFL, thanks to my earlier intense preparation for GRE, which I also did well in and contributed to winning a graduate scholarship.

Below are my 2 cents based on my experience attending several universities.

Advantages of attending universities:

  • meet people and make friends
    • from different cultural and geographical backgrounds
    • who have read voraciously
    • who are good in taking exams
    • with diverse talents in music, sports, etc
  • learn new knowledge and skills

Disadvantages of attending universities:

  • university tuition fees are extremely expensive.
    • parents sacrifice their retirement fund or students will be restricted by debts (they will prefer jobs with monetary rewards instead of other factors).


[1] It’s easier to shift the normal distribution from low to acceptable range, but not from high ones as students will be unhappy.

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