UNSOLICITED ADVICE COLUMN
by Carol R. Doss, Ph.D.
Useless College Degrees
Graduate from college and automatically get a good job? Not necessarily. Students who earn undergraduate degrees in general studies, liberal arts, sociology, and similar majors may find themselves educated, but unemployable when they exit academia. These are just a few college degrees that prepare students for graduate school--you could get into law school with any of these--but which might not earn you a living. Psychology is a tremendously interesting field of study and increasing numbers of students claim this as their major, but a graduate degree is necessary to support yourself if you want to be a psychologist.
Yeppies--the children of the yuppies of the '80s--are idealistic about their futures. Not only do they aspire to changing the world, they're accustomed to pursuing their interests with an Apple Nano Ipod in their $200 True Religion jeans pockets. Unfortunately, a large percentage of them have no concept of how to earn these luxuries.
It is a little known reality that a degree in business can get you a job earning six figures or one working next to people with no college experience. Same with some technology degrees. Going to college and graduating isn't enough. Higher education used to guarantee the graduate an automatic career in his company of choice. Individuals went to school, took a variety of classes as random as their interests, and like the hero of the movie, The Graduate, still had no idea of their place in the work world.
The phenomena of the unemployable college graduate, to a large part, reflects parents' attitude toward the children of the hard-working middle class. We put in long hours and make the most money to provide our families with the little luxuries of life. Kids are not required to earn their own spending money or to work at after-school jobs. We want them to "focus on their studies," we say. Many are in Advanced Placement(AP) or Honors classes. Parents love saying, "My son is in all AP classes." Advanced Placement can be tough, but not necessarily advantageous. Depending on the teacher and the subject, students can be required to produce quantities of academic efforts, and this is frequently the reason they don't have part-time jobs. They stay up long hours working on school projects and IM-ing each other until their sleep clocks get out of whack. Summers are one long blur of sleeping and hanging out. While kids might be prepared for college, they're too often not prepared to lay claim to adult lives in the work world.
The solution? We parents need to encourage kids to begin thinking earlier about the career path they want to pursue. Any real-life experience they can get in their fields of interest is valuable. Volunteering in the professional environment or interviewing a college professor who teaches the subject can both provide important information about the reality of professions. Learning to work, even in menial settings, is also important, especially if we encourage them to take work responsibilities seriously. Even holding an job that a kid doesn't like can help him or her realize fields of study that aren't for them. (It can also motivate them to go to school to earn the kind of career they will enjoy.) Jobs in fast food restaurants and amusement parks can help young people learn what they need from the work experience. Enjoy working with people? Prefer quiet and solitary tasks? Kids need to know these things in order to create a fulfilling, successful career path.
Send them to college, for sure, but get them ready to get ready for a life of professional experience.
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