School has been on my mind a lot recently. The cynic in me says school is mostly about taking a vacation from the real world. The economist in me says its all about labor market signalling, i.e. "this prestigious university thinks I'm awesome, so give me a job." The idealist in me says its all about the pursuit of knowledge and for the betterment of self and society. Reflecting back on my UofC experience it was definitely some of both - lets face it, few people major in Econ so they can make the world a better place. That is unless they're doing God's work as one of Lloyd Blankfein's acolytes.
An article by (economist) Alex Tabarrok gave me a new perspective. Maybe school is all about what you make of it. If you want a vacation you have plenty of opportunities to take easy classes and screw around. If you want to signal and network there are plenty of opportunities for that too. And if you want to become a better person that too is possible. So the question really shouldn't be "what can I get out of school?" but rather "what do I want to get out of school?" If I go into it without knowing why I'm doing it then it'll likely turn into an (expensive) vacation.