As a 2013 college graduate, I can think of few decisions better than the one I made in attending UCLA. I was surrounded by incredibly thoughtful and interesting peers, took chances in my social life and had the freedom to explore various academic interests. I was taught by world-renowned research professors, wrote a senior thesis on a topic I'm passionate about, and have a prestigious school sitting pretty on my resume. But when I recently spoke as an alumni at a college fair event, I realized something quite poignant about my college experience: I learned very little that's applicable to my career.
I graduated from a top high school and well-respected college, yet was never taught how to start a business, file a tax form, write a headline or what SEO means. When I went to the career center for help finding a job around this time last year, I was told that I was doing everything right and directed towards some antiquated books to help me "figure out exactly what I want to do." I had friends that, upon graduating, had never written a check, scheduled a bill payment online or filled out a financial aid form. In terms of practical career skills, I saw us all leave our four years of college no better equipped than we were out of high school.
If this is what you're looking for in a college education, you're likely to be disappointed. Unless you are studying to be a doctor or perhaps a lawyer, there are few practical skills you will be taught over the course of your college education; the tasks you're likely to be doing on a day-to-day basis are not likely to be ones you were directly taught inside the classroom.
So in order to truly appreciate the scope of a college education, we need to stop looking at college as a means to an end and start looking at it as an end in and of itself.
During my four years in college, I became a better person -- stronger, more tolerant, less selfish and far more independent. I learned to think critically, be more cognizant of others, and understand things in much wider scope than I was previously able to. With the connections I made at my school I was able to land incredible internships, start my own website and teach myself enough code to get by in an internet-centered world. I learned that I was not in college to be handed the skills I needed to practically succeed in a given career, but instead to be given the broader skills necessary to figure those things out for myself.
So does you major matter 10 (or even two) years down the line? Not one bit. But are you likely to remember if you spent four years slaving over a subject matter you despised in hopes it will bring a bit of financial karma at the end of your four years? Absolutely. We can limit our perspective of college education to learning a skill set needed for a future career -- because learning is a skill set all on its own.
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