Grad students should continue education for the right reasons

Sometimes I think about what I would be doing at my age if I were part of my grandparents’ generation.

At 21, going on 22, it seems I would be working the family farm, working a full-time job for a few years already or fighting a war.

But for young generations today, school has stretched further into our lives. Much like the fashionable colors of yesteryear, college is the new high school. Many educations simply are not complete or applicable without a bachelor’s degree.

So where do people go to find a traditional college education? Simple. Graduate school is the new college degree.

I’m sometimes surprised by how many times I hear friends saying they plan on going to grad school because they don’t know what to do with their lives. It buys them a few more years of wandering around questions in their heads before they find an answer.

Please don’t misunderstand me. You will find no one who loves and appreciates the value of wandering more than me. And as someone considering going to graduate school eventually, I certainly understand long-time students’ sentiments.

But the wandering in an academic setting is still constrictive compared to the real world and, in many ways, limiting.

How long have traditional college students gone to school? This fall will be the first time in 17 years that I won’t find my way to a desk in August.

Terrifying? Yes. Liberating? Also yes.

It’s very easy to follow a path that’s laid out for you already. For all practical purposes, somebody born tomorrow could go over two decades without having to make a single decision about what they wanted to do with their future if they didn’t want to. Going to school is required by law. Going to college is a societal pressure. Post-graduation: That is the first time many students have the opportunity to make decisions purely on their terms.

Which I suppose is why I flinch at the idea of grad school. I worry that in the persistence of wandering, people are making safe decisions because it’s what’s expected of them instead of following their desires.

It’s a simple and understandable situation. Since college is the new high school, many students leave without a clear direction (which is by absolutely no means a bad thing).

But after leaving and facing the question of what to do now, they fall back on the only thing they’ve known and lived with their entire lives: education. And back to school they go.

Why not wander outside of academic constraints of deadlines, classrooms and grades? Why not embrace education in a non-traditional way? I’ve always thought the best educated in the world were the ones who pursued knowledge on their terms.

Of course I realize this is all easier said than done. The constraints of living outside an academic setting can be just as constraining. And as a friend told me the other day, increased education has given individuals more freedom of personality and thinking than our grandparents’ generation.

But school is still school. I worry that too many of us have become comfortable behind desks when we could be charging out the door to places, people and fields we actually want to experience, not simply learn about.

I’m afraid many of us have become too complacent to sit, listen and learn (not bad traits in themselves) because it’s comfortable and simple rather than because it’s a true desire and passion.

Listening to those callings is something not taught in school.

Sean Rose is a journalism and English senior. E-mail [email protected]