Around the beautiful campus of UNC, roam thousands of young adults trying to get to class, pick the right major, get a degree, be accepted into graduate school, and just survive these crazy years. There are campuses like ours everywhere full of thousands upon thousands of other young adults doing the exact same thing. In so many of our high school careers, our entire lives were geared toward getting us to this very place… but why? The answer seems pretty obvious – graduate and get a job, but when you dig deeper, the question is much more complex. There has to be more behind the intense stress and unease plaguing so many (more likely, all) of us trying to tackle the workload and pave the way to our futures.
As I and my peers agonize over how to reach a career and what career to pursue, it is interesting to talk to adults about their college degrees. Many will laugh and say “Oh, I’ve never use my undergraduate degree in my job!” At my freshman orientation, parents were asked to raise their hands if they currently used their bachelor’s degree in their jobs. Probably less than ten percent of the hands in that room went up. We have allowed this very degree however to become our identities and consume our lives during these four years and probably some of the years that will follow. I’ve never remembered a time when college was not the goal in my education and for it is the same for many others, but at costs around 100,000 dollars or more, maybe college should be more than an assumption of eighteen year olds.
I believe that now, college has become a necessity for getting a “good” job. Many people are motivated to be here more by expectation rather than desire. Charles Murray in “Real Education” explains it this way: “[Students] end up at a four-year institution not because that is where they can take the courses they need to meet their career goals, but because college is the place where BAs are handed out, and everyone knows that these days you’ve got to have a BA.” As in the lives of many of our parents, many of our college degrees won’t help us in our occupations. So why, that leads us to ask, are we spending the money for it? Plenty of students breeze through “gen-ed” requirements with the easiest classes offered without giving it a second thought. If our schooling, especially at a liberal arts university, is preparing us to be an education citizen, maybe those classes aren’t the best choice. I also believe that much of the basic learning to become a knowledgeable, well-rounded person should be done in elementary, middle, and high school. Schooling at this level is offered for free in order to shape intelligent citizens, and I believe going off to college should be building upon this prior knowledge and mainly training for ones future.
What is my point exactly? College should be taken seriously. If a person’s skills and desires lead them to a career that doesn’t require a degree from a four-year university, they shouldn’t be expected to, or looked down upon for not attending one. Classes should be taken seriously to add to our previous general knowledge as well as prepare us for our futures. It is not completely necessary to attend your reach school and then struggle to keep up with an overly ambitious career path or one not suited to an individual. It may not even be completely necessary to even attend any further school. Whether the best true education lies in culinary school, seminary, two-year community college, the Peace Corps, training in a specific trade, missions, or a four-year university, all students should be presented a range of options to achieve their future goals. A bachelors or graduate degree from a prestigious university shouldn’t be the only pass into to a successful life.