College students studying together in a library

Privileged College Student, Are You Grateful?

By Shaun Hurdelbrink and Jill Bowers, PhD

Many view a higher education as the ultimate gateway to success, but seemingly few students express the gratitude tertiary education deserves. Unfortunately, the opportunities and privileges of being a college student may easily be overlooked or taken for granted. As a university student, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard a fellow student complain about the amount work that needs to be done for a class, or how much someone is dreading the next difficult section. I’ve also been asked many times, “what’s the easiest class to take?” If anything, students should be excited to take on academic challenges instead of avoiding or dreading them. Understandably, this is not the view of every student, but my experience has demonstrated that many students may be in a counterproductive mindset.

Throughout my life, higher education was viewed as an expectation, definitely not as an option. However, my family could not financially afford to send me to the state university I wanted to attend. So to reach my goals, I studied extremely hard in high school and worked as a caddie every summer leading up to college. As a result, I earned the Chick Evans Caddie Scholarship, which has enabled me to attend the University of Illinois on a full tuition and housing scholarship. This experience has made me realize how great of a privilege attending college truly is. Without the Evans Scholarship, receiving a higher education would have been exceedingly difficult and attending a state university would have been out of the question. Despite my struggles and successes, I continue to observe students in higher education severely underutilize their resources, or simply show little to no care for their studies. Observing this behavior can be infuriating, especially for me, since I worked so strenuously to earn my spot in school. I had to climb to the tip of the next social class to get to where I am today, and yet some students seem to view school as a place of torture. However, once one realizes the potential of college, there are so many ways to grow holistically, learn about nearly anything you can imagine, and effectively contribute to a diverse community. Seeing a student use every minute of their day being involved in RSOs, bettering themselves as a person, and working hard at their studies is inspiring and enthralling.

Despite mine and many others’ ubiquitous exposure to education, this experience is far from that of the majority of people my age. In fact, only about 32% of students worldwide are enrolled in higher education within five years of finishing their secondary education.1 Although the percentage of enrollment is much higher in more developed countries and is on the rise, a majority of students will still not receive a college education. Imagine the many other people around the world that would happily take my seat and opportunities if they could afford to. A higher education is not a right, but rather a treasured privilege. For those of you that are in college, I hope that you are grateful and make the most of your experience.

1The World Bank. (n.d.). School enrollment, tertiary (% gross) [Map]. Retrieved from

*originally published on Binge Thinking (

About Shaun Hurdelbrink

I am a first year student at the University of Illinois in UC, pursuing a Bachelor of Science in Industrial Engineering. I grew up in Elmhurst, IL (a suburb of Chicago), with one older brother who is now graduated from UIUC and with both of my parents being born profoundly deaf. Currently, I live in the Evans Scholarship House on campus, which houses Evans Scholars who have earned a full tuition and housing scholarship to UIUC based on excellence in academics, leadership, caddying, and character. Moreover, I feel that my unusual upbringing and academic focus on math and science provides me with a unique perspective on social issues. In general, my passions lie in health, philanthropy, fitness, and engineering. I also enjoy perpetually challenging the norm and finding new and improved ways to seeing, understanding, or doing just about anything.

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