Open letter to students: Don’t graduate early

Dear future successful undergraduates,

Don’t graduate early. Your eagerness to join the workforce will only dig you into a deeper hole.

Half of Americans are overqualified for their current jobs,” the Center for College Affordability and Productivity reported early this week. The research shows that in 2010, 25 percent of sales clerks, 15 percent of taxi drivers and 5 percent of janitors all have bachelor’s degrees. These are astounding percentage increases.

The bright side: Higher learning in the U.S. has grown substantially over the last two generations. The competitive nature of our shakily crafted education system has created a desire for success after high school.

The down side: The economy is not prepared for a market that is flooded with college graduates.

Some students in specific fields may find it easy to overload semesters, double-dip classes and graduate earlier than projected. Young, successful adults tire of schooling early and find the quickest ways out. They escape into the “real world.”

Unless graduate school or internships are your goal, early graduation isn’t going to do you much good. Better yet, earning a standard degree with no plan for post-college life is misguided ambition.

College is not like high school. Its sole reward is not completion. Sprinting for a degree in philosophy in six semesters isn’t going to make your $5.50 an hour wages plus tips at Applebee’s any sweeter.

Every student has their reason to get out of college. I’ve heard them all.

Getting a college education in this country is a miracle in and of itself. Difficulties with tuition payments are the average student’s biggest threat. After four semesters and having pockets so empty they hurt, early graduation and freeze-dried ramen have one thing in common: They both start looking pretty good.

College is a stressful environment that constantly insists that students need to hurry out, find boundless success and make generous donations to their alma mater.

Simultaneously, the system backhandedly knows that the heart of monetary control is tuition. The more time students spend within university doors, the more money they’re spending. It’s a money-draining institution that is now encouraged if not required by our culture.

Stop. Take a deep breath.

Remember, the reason you’re in college is for a piece of paper that, when framed on a wall, says, “I got to put this on a résumé!”

Higher education is about the discovery of goals, purpose and self. If there was ever a time to realize that, the economy is here to wake you up. The world sure as hell isn’t ready for more college graduates, so slowing down and being comfortable may be the best choice.

The U.S. economy is recovering more quickly than we anticipated, but still considerably slow. The job market will eventually support more and more college graduates, truly validating the degrees that Americans fight for now harder than ever.

Until then, a bachelor’s degree only means we get to walk on egg shells instead of landmines.

 

Reach the columnist at mschan1@asu.edu or follow him at @MorganSukotto

 

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