What is college all about?
How should I look at college?
Is college the best years of my life?
Does that mean it’s all downhill after I graduate?
Is college all about training for my future career?
Or is it about social growth and experience; experimentation and finding myself?
These are some of the questions that many students have to ask themselves. They have to ask these things because of the conflicting, and often completely wrong, things they have been told about college.
Students are constantly told that college will be the best time of their lives. But no one should ever think of graduation as “the best days of my life are over.”
Lots of people, and lots of college guides, tell students that college is all about career training. This is completely wrong and completely right at the same time.
The problem is, it’s completely wrong in the way most people mean it or take it. Usually, when you hear this phrase, the person speaking it is telling you that the academics of college, the courses you take, are where this career training happens. This is not true. One study found that only about 27% of people with undergraduate degrees work in a job directly related to their college major.1
So, only about 1 out of every 4 college graduates has a job that is not directly related to their undergraduate major. What does that tell you?
It should tell you that your college undergraduate academic classes only end up being directly about career training 1/4 of the time. So if you think of college solely in terms of direct, academic career training, you’re only going to be right about 1/4 of the time. And even for that 1/4, not every class is direct career training; there are unrelated basic courses that must be taken, changes in major where you’ve already taken courses that are not related to your new major, that one blow off class you take to raise your GPA, and others.
So now, with the “career training” approach, a generous look has maybe 2/3 of the courses, for just over 1/4 of the students, being actually involved in career training. So, if my math is right, even with the generous assumption that 2/3 of your courses are directly related to your final major, that means that about 1/6 of academic courses are real career training for students.
If college is career training in the academic sense, it’s horribly inefficient.
But the truth is, all of college is career training. And this is true even if you go into a career that is completely different from anything you’ve ever studied.
Yes, academics in college are important, and doing your best in your courses is part of your career training; but what you academically learn in those courses is not the most important part.
Everything about college is career training in some way. So much of college is about getting to know yourself and how you relate to the world around you. It’s about learning your strengths and overcoming your weaknesses, learning to work with others on projects, and learning the discipline to complete projects that you have no desire to do. It’s about learning to get along with hundreds or thousands of people you have little in common with besides geography; learning how to manage your time and balance your life; and finding a mix between authority and independence.
College is career training in the sense that it is a crash course in dealing with all things life. It’s about transitioning from the dependent, student you into the independent you. It’s about learning to navigate a world of personalities, dangers, fun, temptations, and responsibilities—and doing it all well.
Academics are a big part of college. They are important. But if you think college, or the learning that you do and training you receive in college, is limited to classes and academics, you’re wrong.
And if you think that college academics are the only thing you need to make sure you’re ready for, you’re wrong there too. But here at U Ready, we’ve got your back.
1Jaison Abel and Richard Deitz, “Agglomeration and Job Matching among College Graduates,” Staff Report No. 587 (2014). Although this study only takes undergraduate degrees into account, it shows that most people do not end up in a career related to their college major.