Our Viewpoint: College is not vocational — Holistic Learning

Category:  Opinions
Wednesday, September 5th, 2018 at 4:22 PM

OK, fine. I’ll admit it. Up until now, I’ve kind of been auto-piloting my way through college. It was never a conscious decision, just something that I fell into without realizing. It’s easy to do really: if you think of college as just a certification, you then learn only the information you’re tested on, cram the day before exams — the formula is simple. Recently though, I’ve been reflecting on something a professor said to me freshman year:  

“These four years are about getting a degree in your discipline, yes,” he began. “But it’s also about becoming knowledgeable in a little art, some science and psychology — [and] learning different technology.”

That statement resonated with me so much that I wrote it inside the cover of my notebook for that class. And this summer, while de-cluttering my notebooks, I ran across it again and realized that I hadn’t taken that advice to heart.
I think that, at some strange level, getting into college releases this weird nagging stress that you won’t be successful in life. Then autopilot kicks in: you just need to get that degree and it’s smooth sailing. The thing is, that’s not the case. College is more different than it has ever been.

Students are drowning in student loans, traditional career paths are dying away, graduate schools are getting harder to get into, and the world is seemingly going to hell.  I don’t think I know one person in college without an additional job of some sort.  

When you’re trying to make it through college without drowning, how does a little art, science and technology help?  How does being a “well-rounded” student help with getting a job?  

The answers to those questions lie in realizing that, in this day and age, college is not, as Frank Bruni of The New York Times puts it, “purely vocational.”

The economy is shifting and changing as it arguably has never done before. The degrees that we are pursuing today: 1.) might not exist in 20 years; 2.) might not even be the fields that we end up landing in. To put it simply (excluding a handful of majors), college is not preparing us for the workforce. What it is equipping us for are those universal skills that apply to all career fields.                                            

If that is the case, then approaching college as a holistic endeavor is the only approach that really makes sense. An appreciation for art — visual, physical or written — develops new methods of learning for students, while equipping them with skills that can be applied to our ever-visual world. Science teaches students to analyze facts and the empirical evidence that supports them. Psychology teaches much in understanding the human psyche, the importance of mental health and the benefits of self-care. An understanding of technology makes students adaptable to any field that makes use of technology.

According to a survey by LinkedIn of 2,000 business leaders, the most sought-after skills in a college graduate are: time management, collaboration, leadership and communication. Skills that are built mostly outside of the classroom.   

Make use of the art galleries, office hours and courses outside of your major. Every semester, there are a number of classes in various majors opened to non-major students: if you have room in your schedule, take them. Talk to professors about your career aspirations — they will most likely have advice for you. Join student organizations and clubs.

Auto-piloting through classes and working for the grade doesn’t help you succeed for the most part. Building skills in college now means taking on extracurriculars, getting involved in organizations and even conducting research.
The word university stems from the Latin word “universitas,” which means “the whole.” Now, more than ever, students have to focus on the whole experience.

A college degree is now the minimum.

Shayma Musa can be reached at voices.spectator@gmail.com.

Tags: opinions

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