Degree of success?

A retrospective on college, graduation and the wide world beyond

As graduation begins to materialize tangibly on the horizon of the impending future, I find myself anxiously awaiting the receipt of some supposedly sacred slip of paper, which is the proof of my purchased knowledge.

A retrospective on college, graduation and the wide world beyond

As graduation begins to materialize tangibly on the horizon of the impending future, I find myself anxiously awaiting the receipt of some supposedly sacred slip of paper, which is the proof of my purchased knowledge.


My diploma dangles over my head, completely within reach. Yet now more than ever I feel as if that damned document may as well be a boulder on a string, weighted down by obligations of the post-graduation lifestyle shift.

And I am just standing here, waiting for it to crush me.

Of course, my initial thoughts are about the onerous fact that I will soon be hit with a wave of college loan debt. Then, it is time to join the hundreds of thousands of other happy graduates who are trying to avoid the unemployment line.

Then I think about how, in all likelihood, graduation in today’s economy means getting a job that has nothing to do with a specific degree. If you’re lucky, you can find an occupation which values a college education and pays its employees a higher-than-average base-rate, simply because the job requires an academic degree.

If you’re extremely fortunate, or else well-connected, you might find a career out of college that not only pays well but actually utilizes your skills and knowledge base.

But what happens when you’re about to graduate, and you suddenly realize that the thing you’ve been studying the last several years of your life no longer interests you?Since I was 16, I wanted to be an English professor. Literature was my greatest means of escape from living in a small town. Fiction fulfilled in me a desire to experience different lifestyles, different personas.

Books provided not only knowledge but a communion with artists throughout time.I thought studying these things would bring me to a deeper level of understanding. Yet, as my college career comes to a close, I feel as though the majority of it has been spent learning how to work the system.

To me, papers tend to measure how well a person can follow MLA standards while using deconstruction theory and properly citing sources, rather than serving as tools for the development of ideas. The most important part of the college paper is the deadline, and satisfaction of length requirements.

For this reason, college has torn my desire to remain in academia from me.

I guess as a teenager I pictured college as a community of intellectuals creating together, studying together and toiling together toward the betterment of society. Having gone through it, it feels more like an extension of the American high school factory system; a person’s progress measured by their ability to conform to standards, work within generally accepted guidelines, be a team player and complete tasks.

After all, what does being a college graduate mean in 2012 America? I mean, I have always known a liberal arts degree would not make me huge sums of money immediately following graduation. I chose to pursue it anyway, because I believed I was following my passion.

But these days, it seems hard to defend pursuit of personal passion when people seem reduced to merely being resources for a corporate job market, and a college degree functions more like an indicator of task completion than a mark of intelligence or creativity.

Graduation from a university is merely a résumé builder, another tool for finding a career. So when potential employers are shuffling through the stacks of applicants, a degree is a competitive edge. It is a step in shuffling you along your career path.

That is great for people that want to follow a set track.

I, however, have spent my entire college career working within templates. And graduation for me is the abolishment of boundaries.

People talk about college being the best time of their life, because allegedly there are wild parties, endless hookups and minimal responsibilities. This was not my experience, as I spent most of my time in college working full-time overnight jobs to pay for tuition.

I did it because I thought that it would get me where I needed to go. I thought I needed to go to college. Now, I’m not so sure.

There are things I could have done without a degree, and saved myself the money and time it took to go to a university. Learning on my own may have been just as fruitful as being taught. Knowledge given is usually filtered, biased or agenda-driven anyway.

Is going to college more valuable than just the time invested and the cost of books and tuition?

I have met interesting people in my classes, learned new perspectives and have been exposed to things I may otherwise not have known about. These things could be considered valuable.

Of course, other life experiences could yield the same exposure to new people or ideas. In the Internet age, people have more ways than ever to connect to one another and to learn about differing worldviews.

Certainly, for those studying literature, it would not be hard to use the Internet to learn just about anything a student could in a college classroom.

Perhaps our university system is just an outdated model, which is no longer practical outside of things like scientific study.

Regardless, the fact remains that I did go to college. I will graduate. I will have to pay exorbitant rates of interest on my already excessive student loans.

Yet, I have no intent to use my degree. I don’t want to spend any more time objectifying the works of whatever author I am told is worthy of study. I also want to opt out of the corporate-controlled work force, and work toward self-sufficiency.

I want to live my life so that I never have to look back and remember the “good times” I had in college. I want to devote my life to self-actualization and develop my spiritual self, as well as strengthen the familial ties in my life.

I want to create art and express myself without fear of judgment. I want to exist free from the negative influence of a confused society.

Of course if that doesn’t work out, I’ll always have my degree to fall back on.