College is at an existential crossroads. While individuals have shifted to be more career oriented, the objective of a college education has followed suit. An increasing number of colleges mandate a college major, but don’t require a broad education across subjects through course requirements. This shift has prompted educators to focus more on career preparation during class time instead of teaching classes that stimulate personal and intellectual growth.
College majors pigeonhole students. By only requiring that students take courses pertaining to their chosen major, the objective of college becomes to simply get a job in their selected field. The goal of having students focus on a specific area of expertise is to make the transition from college to the workplace smooth. But, this creates students who are more focused on a career than growing intellectually, which is what college should be about.
If colleges continue this focus on money and careers by mandating students choose a major instead of allowing them to explore various subjects, they aren’t necessarily setting students up for success in the long run.
A study from Pew Research Center found that 39 percent of Americans think the purpose of college is to help students grow personally and intellectually. However, the number soared to 56 percent when American adults with a postgraduate degree were asked what the goal of a college education should be. This shows that those who have been through more levels of education, and therefore have been exposed to more depth and breadth of education, see the benefit in focusing more on growth than a career during college.
Despite the belief that having a broad educational base is important, there is still
widespread chatter that focusing on one area in depth will bring monetary success. Websites and news organizations like Forbes and USA Today even rank the value of college majors. Lists like these lead to a belief that a person’s area of study is the only factor in determining their career success down the line, which shifts the focus of college from academic growth to securing a hefty paycheck.
The danger of a career being the sole objective of college is the presumption that money is synonymous to success.
Studies have shown that there isn’t a correlation between job salary and job satisfaction, and people who are in the top half of earners report similar levels of satisfaction as those in the bottom half.
Earlier this month, an article similarly argued that college majors no longer provide both broad and specific knowledge and expertise required to compete in the current job market. It specifies that new graduates need a broad set of skills now more than ever to succeed in their chosen career.
Majors force students to become one trick ponies instead of jacks of all trades, which in the end, isn’t even beneficial in the workplace. Employers look beyond college majors. According to a Bloomberg report, employers are more interested in skills like analytical thinking and communication skills, which can be gained from a broad education, than industry-related experience that comes from work or the classroom. Many are also more interested in internships and other employment, The Atlantic reported.
Getting a job shouldn’t be our only objective as college students. In order to be more informed, effective members of society, we need to grow intellectually, as well as personally, during our college years.
Students need to choose an area to focus on, but having a broad education to go along with a specific expertise is important when it comes to thriving in a career and getting what is intended out of your college experience.
Mary Overton, a sophomore majoring in English, is a Hatchet opinions writer.
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