Why we go to college

Molly Cahill

Why do we go to college? Ostensibly it is to get an education in a field we are passionate about and wish to pursue as a career. But in a culture where you practically need a degree to get any job that isn’t flipping burgers, the exact specialization doesn’t matter as much as it used to when our parents were this age. Because, despite assurances that unemployment rates are going down, there is still fierce competition for the jobs that are available.

You have to be creative and market the skills you have to your best advantage.

True, you still need to go to medical school to become a doctor, and I doubt you would get hired as a pilot without graduating from flight school. But the days where you could enter a company after high school and work your way up to vice president or CEO are pretty much over. To succeed in this economy with a reasonable degree of success you need a college degree and pretty much any one will do.

I have heard people argue otherwise, and in some parts of the country the necessity of a degree might not be quite so prevalent. But since coming to Kent State, I have met quite a few people who plan to move into one of the larger cities like New York or Los Angeles after they graduate and in places like that employers will, 99 times out of 100, take the guy with a degree in philosophy over the one who dropped out and decided to wing it.

It’s a well-accepted truth, amongst students at least, that the only job you can get as an English major is in teaching. And for the most part it’s true if that’s the only field you’re willing to look for a job in anyway. If you ever want to pay off those student loans or move out of your parent’s basement, you have to keep your mind open to alternative possibilities.

For most of us our dream job isn’t going to come laid out on a silver platter. Sometimes you have to bide your time and consider that just because The New York Times doesn’t come to you on bended knee, begging you to grace them with your exemplary prose and wit, that another job can’t be just as worthwhile.

It helps to try to look at your skill set objectively. What else might your abilities or experiences qualify you to do?

I have a friend who is one of the best sports photographers you will ever meet. But because he is relatively young and unknown, he’s only been able to find freelance work. So he also runs a business that does wedding photography. It may not be his first choice of jobs, but it gives him the opportunity to work toward what he does want to do.

One of the favored platforms for politicians is unemployment. They all seem to possess a miracle cure for it. In the real world, however, we know that such a thing is impossible. There will always be people who can’t find work and there will always be someone younger and smarter than you who may also be more qualified or better connected. President Obama can’t reverse that — it’s just the way the world works.

What gives you a leg up and one of the reasons going to college is so valuable is not so much being the one to ace microeconomics. The ability to hit the ground running is what will set you apart. People no longer plan to stay at a company for their whole lives, so consequently employers do not have the time to train you how to handle the job world from the ground up. What future employers are expecting you to have when you graduate along with that degree is the ability to stick to schedules, meet deadlines and work together in a group environment effectively. That is what will get you employed and that is why we go to college.

Molly Cahill is a senior pre-journalism major and columnist for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact her at [email protected].