Are there advantages to being a perpetual student?

I recently had an interesting conversation with a gentleman regarding his family.  During the conversation he mentioned that his son has been attending college for about 5 years.  I asked about his major thinking maybe he was studying for a Master’s degree or more.  The gentleman seemed a little upset and stated, “He hasn’t settled on one yet.”  At this point the gentleman said that he was worried his son may become a perpetual student and never graduate.

This started me thinking about the perception of the term “perpetual student” and the many connotations that the term could have.  I decided to look up the actual definition just to clarify that my understanding was not wrong.  The definition of “perpetual student” states:

“A perpetual student, also known as a professional student (though the latter term has more than one meaning), is a college or university attendee who re-enrolls for several years, typically more than what is necessary to obtain a given degree.”

The definition goes on to mention that there are several reasons for such behavior and list the following examples:

  • Time constraints (inability to devote full-time to studies due to a job or raising a family)
  • Indecision (changing one’s major one or more times)
  • Inability to find a job
  • Pursuit of more than one degree or major
  • Inability to complete a final thesis or dissertation
  • Student loans becoming due for payment once student status is lost
  • Unwillingness to abandon the social aspect
  • Desire to continue participation in extra-curricular activities, particularly competitive ones that require participants to be registered students
  • Political organizing
  • Desire to avoid getting a job

My understanding of the term does not fall completely in line with the actual definition.  It would appear that I may have mistaken the true meaning.  I have always associated a “perpetual student” as someone who strived to learn throughout their lives, not because they were afraid to live, but to be able to live to their full potential.  So taking my approach to the term, think about this question:

Would you be considered a “perpetual student”?

I have always considered the perpetual student as someone who constantly strives to learn more about themselves and the world around them.  They are a student of wisdom, understanding, intelligence and prudence all of which relate to one’s ultimate knowledge.

In a former life I was once a student of the Martial Arts.  As such I was introduced to the ideas of man that most people would consider to be the ultimate perpetual student: Bruce Lee.

Bruce Lee was one of the greatest Marital Artists of the 20th century.  He was also a philosopher and known for his unending quest for all types of knowledge.  He once said, “All types of knowledge ultimately mean self- knowledge.”  I think this quote defined Lee’s outlook on life to such a degree, that it helped him ultimately overcome the many obstacles placed before him.

Little known fact:  In high school, one of his accomplishments was winning an interschool Boxing Cham­pionship against an English student in which the Marquis of Queensbury rules were followed and no kicking was allowed. Given the graceful movements, which would later be spectacularly displayed in his films, it is no surprise that Bruce was also a terrific dancer, and in 1958 he won the Hong Kong Cha-Cha Championship. He studied dancing as assiduously as he did Gung Fu, keeping a notebook in which he had noted 108 different cha-cha steps.

Lee believed that we never stop growing, “There is no such thing as maturity. There is instead an ever-evolving process of maturing. Because when there is a maturity, there is a conclusion and a cessation. That’s the end. That’s when the coffin is closed. You might be deteriorating physically in the long process of aging, but your personal process of daily discovery is ongoing. You continue to learn more and more about yourself every day.”

This idea still holds true today.  We must strive to grow both mentally and physically to maintain a healthy life.  Remember that personal growth can come in many forms, from trying a new dish at a restaurant, to stepping out of your comfort zone, to trying new activities like social dancing.  Remember that being a perpetual student means self-discovery, wisdom, understanding, intelligence and prudence all of which relate to one’s ultimate knowledge.  With so much to learn and experience, can we really afford to sit on the sidelines?

So what are your thoughts on the advantages of being a perpetual student?  Share them in the comment section below.

Remember to keep dancing!



2 Comments on “Are there advantages to being a perpetual student?

  1. Thank you for this. I am currently working towards a degree & I’ve often wondered if I might be able to continue attending college courses even after attaining my degree & the hopeful career that comes with it but not because I’m afraid to move on. I just simply have a fascination with learning as much as I possibly can in life. My love of learning does extend to things outside of the classroom of course but the amount of knowledge to be shared within those walls amazes and delights me so it’s a bit disheartening to hear people so often put down the “Perpetual Learner” because in the end isn’t that what we should all strive to be?

    • I agree completely. So often I hear people say that they have “learned all they needed to know” and have no desire to increase their knowledge. This is not only so very untrue for we can never be omnipotent, but also a touch arrogant in my humble opinion. We should strive to learn something new each day, otherwise we are settling for just being average. Some of us want to be exceptional, so keep on doing your thing and let those others remain average! 🙂

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