I took the conventional college advice and it was wrong.
Conversations about going to college often revolve around job placement in a post-graduate world. My guidance counselors, parents and teachers all encouraged me to find a degree in something with good economic prospects. The usual suspects are the highly lauded STEM fields.
I went to school to study Information Technology and Cybersecurity. According to conventional wisdom, this is one of the best majors I could have chosen with an in-demand skill set and high pay. After college, I worked for a year in my chosen degree field and hated it. For me, IT was the wrong major. My cursory interest in computers during high school was not enough to sustain a career. I pushed through my degree for its promise of a well-paying career, and it wasn’t enough.
In high school, I took an interest in computers after I took some programming classes and joined the robotics club. These were incredibly fun and rewarding experiences. However, I believe I misattributed the fun I was having with friends programming robots and video games to a larger interest in computing. The fact was, outside of those instances, I never really took much interest in computers. The classes in school that held my focus and attention the best were my history and English classes. The most interesting classes I took in college were for my philosophy minor. For me, solving computer problems is more frustrating than rewarding. Being the guy who fixes things was more a cause for anxiety than the basis for a healthy career. At least in my case.
Telling students to only go to school for something that will leave them with good career prospects will leave students in unfilling majors leading to unfulfilling careers. Instead, we should help students to find their passions. We instrumentalize education making it a means to an end rather than an end in itself. Learning is its own good and we should encourage students to pursue their educational interests regardless of supposed profitability.
We are better off when we find things that we enjoy doing with people we enjoy doing them with. Building a world where all people can have fulfilling careers probably will take more than reframing the way we view college, but framing all education as mere steps on the economic ladder certainly doesn’t get us there either.
We, as humans, are more fulfilled when we stop seeing ourselves in economic terms. Our human needs for fulfillment and meaning in the work we do are only ignored to our detriment. Telling students to follow incentives will only make us less fulfilled.
Joseph Mitchell is a 25 year old Littleton resident who hails from Arvada Colorado. After receiving a bachelors in Information Technology from Grand Canyon University: Joseph moved back home. He has found his purpose in helping others. Joining the Young Advocates Program allows him to find ways to plug into issues affecting his community. Living here his whole life Jeffco is the place he calls home.