I’d like to ask every reader of this article to email a note, however brief, concerning one “educational” pursuit they plan on achieving soon after their undergraduate diploma. Do not think this pursuit must be qualified by some institution or high authority; all I’d like to hear is your passionate interest in becoming involved with something positive post-graduation. Please email this link with your response: firstname.lastname@example.org (or respond to this article by hitting “reply” below). If I receive enough responses, we’ll run them in our next edition of the paper. Even if you think your response is eccentric, archaic, or just plain silly, still send it in; you never know if your words will inspire another individual, giving them the confidence to succeed in their own pursuits.
Education in America is commonly seen as a stopgap. Guidance counselors in every state fill the minds of prospective juniors and graduating seniors with delusions of high paying jobs in shiny corporate buildings with top of the line technology only four or five years away, should they choose the right school to attend. The main reason I categorize this as a delusion and not a plain falsity is because good paying jobs, in all walks of life, not only in the business sector, do exist: they come in various shapes and forms, and the people who fill these roles were once in your collegiate shoes; but there are not as many as them as you’d like to believe. So does this mean that your personal interests are worthless if they don’t contribute something to your projected professional skill set?
Your guidance counselor may or may not reveal the drudgery of college to you, but, either way, they will push you to go to college; as they should: it is an opportunity of a lifetime, to make use of a cliché. There is no other span of four years where you will be allowed to make your own decisions, supported by a large framework of professors and school officials who are able and willing to help you through your academic burdens. For many, college classes are the sole commitment during this period; student loans proffer this possibility to many, and some are lucky enough to have financially supportive families. Others must work a part-time job to help foot the bills, but even this does not dilute what is learned in the classroom, as being allowed to call yourself a “student” not only has a nice progressive ring to it, but helps you to shape some semblance of a future, years before you get there.
Why is it, then, that so many students complain of essay assignments and final exams? How can studying be seen as tedious and vexing when it’s supposed to be illuminating and enlightening? You’re probably filling in the particulars to these questions already, fully capable of understanding why you endure these obstacles: to get and education, get your degree, and get a job.
The funny thing is that, once you land this job, there’s a good chance you’ll stop learning. What does this actually mean? You learn something every day after college; but it’s often monotonous facts—how irritating rush hour is after an eight hour day, the anger you feel against fellow supermarket shoppers who are ahead of you in line and taking way too long to bag their groceries. These little irritating elements of life will begin to replace your syllabi and mid-term assignments, and unless you do something to drastically change your approach to your daily routine, you’ll stop learning how to deal with the consequences such moments produce.
I can speak of this because I live it; but I do not let the lack of a collegiate class schedule weaken my love of learning. Maybe you’re in a major you hate, just so you can land a successful job; or it’s very possible you don’t like your current school and are looking to transfer or you’re counting down the days to graduation. It’s alright if you are, and, in fact, it’s pretty normal; but don’t lose a sense of your personal interests along the way, the things that truly make you happy. Any post-graduate plan you’re already considering should also contain a detailed sketch of your most passionate interests and how you can enable them to bloom post-graduation.
If you keep your personal interests alive after college then you are setting yourself up to be successful in every facet of your life. I like to read and I try to read as much as I can in my free time. I’m currently reading a book called “The Razor’s Edge” by W. Somerset Maugham; it concerns the life and interests of a young man named Larry, who has forgone an typical college education after returning home from WWI. Though the book takes place about a century ago, its content is completely relevant, especially for young adults who are unsure of their future aspirations.
Reading books that interest me is one way I continue to educate myself. I can honestly say that I don’t miss college, but there are elements of my student life that I do miss; and I am thankful every day that I was given the time and space to find the real worth of my own personal interests. This article is not meant as advice and I don’t wish it to sound pedantic; all I wish is for you to start your own personal education now, one that interests you and holds real worth outside of your current grade point average and your future net profits.
Robert Cutrera is currently an adjunct instructor at SUNY New Paltz. He graduated from SUNY New Paltz with his M.A. in 2014 and has spent all of his life in the Hudson Valley.