Editor's Note: Today, I'm thrilled to welcome Mary Lane as a monthly contributor here at CatholicMom.com. Mary, a graduate student at John Paul the Great University blogs at Young and Catholic. Please join me in welcoming Mary and her unique perspective by leaving her a comment today. LMH

About a month ago, I officially joined the ranks of people who call themselves college graduates.  It’s kind of a crazy idea to wrap my mind around.  According to certain statistics, this simple fact means that I will potentially be able to make nearly twice the amount I could make if I just had a high school diploma; I will be twice as likely to get and keep a job, and, according to some, I will be just an all-around happier person.

Sounds like a pretty good deal.  So then why is the National Inflation Association reporting that college education is possibly one of the largest scams in U.S. history?  Well, perhaps because many people my age let it be so.

College is expensive.  There is no arguing that.  But I truly believe that the education you can receive in college can be worth every penny put down, and then some.  However, at the end of four years, many people my age are finding they have not gotten out of the college experience what they hoped they would when they started.  Why is this?

Personally, I think this has everything to do with the mentality of us young adults in college. Rather than going to school to get ready for the “real world”, I think many people use college as a means to put off growing up.

We fall back on the old “everybody experiments in college” line, or make other excuses for our stupid behavior.  “Everyone else” gets drunk every weekend, so we do it, too.  “Everyone else” is sleeping around; “everyone else” is smoking pot; these things are “just what you do” in college.  We’ll grow up a little closer to graduation.  Right now, we just want to have a little fun.

Well, contrary to what a lot of people might say, people don’t grow up by getting the young and stupid behavior “out of their system”.  We grow up by choosing not to take part in childish or stupid behavior at all.  Stupidity is not the absence of knowledge.  Stupidity is acting contrary to the knowledge you have.  Saying you have to be stupid before you can be wise is like saying you have to be sick before you can be healthy.  It’s just not true.

It kills me to see people in our generation settling for this.  Put aside for a moment the fact that, upon graduation, we will have no idea what to do with our lives, having squandered our time and money spent on college going to parties and sleeping around.  The real tragedy of a college experience spent like this is what it does to a person.

If college is a “scam”, it’s not because we spend too much money on an education that doesn’t get us a job at the end of four years.  If college is a “scam”, I believe it is because we pay tens of thousands of dollars in order to live a lifestyle that slowly destroys us.  There is no happiness in that kind of lifestyle.  In truth, there is a lot of pain, and a lot of regret.

I think that, as a generation, we need to point out that the emperor isn’t wearing any clothes here. Let’s stop buying into this lie that college is for acting stupid on the way to growing up.  Why wait until graduation to start making a positive impact on the world?  Positive change has to start with you.

Copyright 2011 Mary Lane