Monday, September 4, 2006

College should prepare you for life, not just a career

The first college I went to, not the UI, was jokingly referred to as the “high school after high school," and, for the most part, that seemed right. And though the advising system was more active, it also conveyed contradictory messages. We were going to become well-rounded individuals, while simultaneously pushed into making decisions regarding careers in our freshman year. The last straw was when alumni spoke about what they got out of college.

What were the important lessons learned, you might ask? That the career you think you'll end up with will probably change, public speaking is a useful skill, and, most importantly, forming social networks is crucial. Unfortunately for the social-networking approach, cronyism can be a serious problem. A prime example is former FEMA Director Michael Brown, who lacked any real qualifications for his position but, nonetheless, was selected. Vouched for by his friend, then FEMA Director Joe Allbaugh, helped. Not all jobs are as important as head of FEMA, but this underscores the consequences of social networking. It takes less effort to get ahead but at a cost of quality and certainly fairness to those who did actually put in the effort.

The best solution lies with the students. Many students come in with this notion of what they’re going to do in life, become a doctor or lawyer, earn the big bucks, and live out the life of luxury. With the first semester upon us, it will be the time for students to drop those classes that don’t quite pan out — those that sounded interesting but turned out to be boring or the professor a sadist.

If you can, take a class outside your major and general-education requirements, something you might have an interest in but didn’t plan on pursuing or something you never thought about doing. College is about making well-rounded people and not just another step on the way to a career.

Joe Dunkle
editorial writer

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