They kicked you out of college like a tramp with degree in hand. Yeah, yeah. A tramp in a tux, or perhaps a white, strapless dress, depending on who your parents are, maybe from Saks. It felt grand to feast with the fam in convivial excess dedicated to the greatest achievement thus far in your life span. But what about the crash, the collision experienced when you realized your 16-year melange of public and/or private school education most likely failed to teach you the essentials skills needed to make it (out there).
It’s really real out there.
Elise, an office worker from Boston with a BA in psychology, describes her college education in the book “Twentysomethings” as “too broad and too shallow” to be particularly useful in a world that demands professional specialization.
Another millennial, who studied Jazz at the University of Miami, defends his college education, saying he could not do what he’s doing now [playing bass professionally] without studying for four years in college. It helped neutralize his previously skewed conception of what it takes to make it in America. This millennial says he was unusual because he always knew his life purpose was to play music. He enrolled straight into UMiami’s conservatory, while his peers meandered, searching for what to study. As far as college teaching him the business of music, however, which he considers to be the wild wild west, the next frontier, he has to learn as he goes.
I imagine those who study the humanities, or a subject that requires further schooling or additional knowledge in commerce and technology to put into vocational application, echo the sentiments of Elise. There exist about 250 liberal arts colleges in the US; schools that allow students to study courses like costume design and geology, calculus and the history of western civilization simultaneously. While information in these courses surely help to expand a student’s worldly knowledge and ability to think critically, a liberal arts curriculum seems somewhat arbitrary, too impractical to put into application when almost all jobs available require knowledge of a specific trade.
It seems that college positively functions more as a structured socialization chamber, a place where teens are weened off their parents. They learn how to clean their room, live within a budget, complete paperwork, and get to a place by a specific time. However, students leave college shocked due to their ignorance of how to successfully navigate the world of the industry they choose to study. They are forced to confront the naivety that drove their 18-year-old decision making.
Do what you love. Do what you love.
This piece of advice guides those both blessed and burdened with the choice of what to do with their lives.
A young sprout says, “I love working out. I should probably be a personal trainer.”
They are told to get a NASM certification or declare a major in exercise science. In school, they are taught about body fat ratios and peptides, but rarely on what life is actually like for a fitness teacher. The student is not warned studios take 75 percent of commission when they work 1:1 with a client. They are not counseled on how to market themselves so they can book the 20 classes a week required for a trainer to make a decent living. No lessons are given on how a trainer’s aptitude is judged on their appearance. No seminars are offered on ways to combat this when their once youthful bod begins to show signs of age. No, these hard lessons are learned only once a person has committed their time and money, nose diving to be a part of this field.
An idealistic walks into the office of their academic adviser and announces, “I’ve decided to declare a Creative Writing major. I am going to be a writer.”
Instead of reciting the student’s next semester worth of course requirements, it should be that adviser’s duty to tell the student that the only person who takes longer to respond to a query than the editor of a lit magazine is G-O-D. And thus, with that information passed, the student should leave school with the skills needed to tackle this.
An entire year should be spent on how to write pitches and proposals. Classes should be offered on how to create a personal brand, how to use the internet to market your writing, connect to bloggers, and stay updated with emerging technologies. They should be tested on grammar, SEO optimization, and the Chicago Manual of Style. No one should have to take a webinar five years after graduation to learn these vitals because their school’s curriculum simply was not progressive enough to stay up-to-date with advances in the writing industry. Or because instead of learning how to copy write or use InDesign, they spent six months studying Chaucer. No student should have to feel like they need to go to grad school to delay facing the fact making a living wage exclusively by writing is akin to making it to the Olympics. Thus after spending 100,000 dollars on an education, they have no choice but to watch their dreams die. No, that student should leave school armed with the tools to fight and innovate in an over-saturated market, or they should not be offered the chance to study creative writing at all.
As we blaze through school, we are not always taught how to succeed as a cog in the reality of this machine. We cram ourselves with facts we’ll be okay if we forget, but are not schooled on the rules of the game, our rights as workers, that it’s completely fair for our boss to fire us one day if he/she doesn’t like the color of our shirt, in this Darwinian, hierarchical world that functions by the credo of the survival of the fittest. Because of this, hoards of graduates will enter the real world tripping over their own shoelaces, feeling repeatedly bitch slapped as they try to figure out what to do, how to adapt, and use their major to make a career when college left them unprepared to work the kinds of jobs actually available.
If the idiom “those who can’t, teach” is true, it could be fair to blame the hiring of teachers without real world experience for the wide spread ignorance that causes students to study their hobbies unaware of the politics in that industry. For when the scholars who educate us have never been able to steer their way to success in a subject outside the realm of academia, it makes sense college students would leave school feeling ill equipped to go on and do what those who taught them never could. Every class in college should be career day, or else degree inflation will continue to increase, which will only add to the income inequality and class warfare plaguing this country.
Of course, all this pissing and moaning about the failures of higher education put aside, no degree of bureaucracy, financial instability, or long hours hours worked away from friends and family will deter those truly invested to do what they feel so strongly called to do from doing just that. No amount of miles spent driving to and from gyms will prevent a fitness instructor from pushing soft bodies to become hard. No number of unanswered emails will keep a fiction author bent on publishing from pitching again. No amount of blood shed by the blade of a santuko will scare a chef away from the kitchen. No piles of paperwork and mounds of debt from law school will keep an aspiring Atticus Finch from working pro bono.
“Everymans work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is.” – 1 Corinthians 3:13
The time comes in our lives, often when it feels too early, and we must choose a career to provide our lives with sustenance and hopefully, meaning. Yet, the college we invest in to guide us in this choice should do its due diligence. It should prepare us for a specific line of work and the type of fire unique to it that it will inevitably accompany.