We should find our place in life according to our standards

Agnes Cho

Transition. Identification. Exploration. New transformative depth. These are all associated with our definitive four years spent at college. But what do we transition into? 

Which choices, trivial or otherwise, ultimately identify us? How does what we choose to explore, whether ideas, aspects of our innermost selves or  new places around the globe, change our perspectives? 

What do we learn? What passions do we discover? What new attitudes and purposes do we unveil during this time of expansion? As we attain higher education, we also venture to answer these lofty questions, hoping that the lessons learned in the classroom might help us reach even higher and discover our passions in life.  

This is what college is for—we should be learning for the sake of learning, for the passion of new knowledge. 

We should grow intellectually and personally under the wing of our collegiate microcosm, become prepared to contribute to society with our abilities when we are ready—and if we happen to get hired by prestigious employers for the skills we acquire along the way, then good for us. 

However, in recent years, it seems that the harsher macrocosm has infiltrated our bastion of learning more and more to the point that the purpose of college has shifted dramatically, in most cases away from the integrity of simple learning. 

The outside, “real” world is becoming the main culprit for this move away from such integrity thanks to the shortage of jobs.  Since 2008, the economy has been declining, which has had a large influence on the decisions students are making when it comes to their majors. It has become difficult for students to feel at leisure to use the four years for intellectual exploration and discovery, especially with the external pressure to find a well-paying job. When they must choose between studying what they love and studying what seems practical, students are too frequently forced to choose the latter, and limit themselves to courses that will help them “look good” for future employers. 

They must major in something that will help them get a “real job”, and in doing so, they not only silence their invaluable intellectual passions for the sake of employability, but they also risk stifling any opportunities of truly thriving in the area of study that they are passionate about. This is a serious issue, and Villanova students are no exception. 

Thus, it appears that in college and the “real world”, exists a dichotomy.  College fosters the appreciation of knowledge in and of itself—it encourages the broadening of horizons, the expansion of one’s sense of self. 

The real world, on the other hand, demands that college be used as a means to an end, and thereby narrows perspectives, forcing hyper-concentration on the singular aim of impressing employers and being employed. 

While college teaches students to cultivate their nascent concepts of identity and their larger roles in the world around them as mindful individuals, the colder, outside world, indifferent to self-development, homogenizes them as indistinguishable competitors all running blindly and aggressively toward the same spot in the ever-dwindling domain of job security.  

Though a healthy dose of pragmatism from the external world can be helpful in shaping future goals, the trend in students’ top priorities appears to be overwhelmingly on the unhealthily pragmatic side of the spectrum. 

The more Villanova students I speak to, the more students I see bashfully admitting to how large of arole job security plays in their declaring a major. They matter-of-factly say that since they have chosen to take the practical path, they must now invest their four years wisely on the sole objective of getting hired for the ambitious job around which they are designating their college career. 

They share their elaborate plan on how they will render themselves the perfect candidate for a prestigious job or competitive graduate school program, building their resumes, making connections, gaining “unique” experiences, scheduling internships, etc. 

This plan is also not restricted to academics. Even extracurricular activities have a pragmatic purpose on students’ resumes, either adding to their “leadership skills”, “dedication” to community service or their abilities to make connections. 

I found that the Club Fair at the beginning of the year bolsters my observation, as there were a considerable number of career-oriented organizations bringing in lists of freshmen names on their sign-up sheets with the cry, “It’ll help you get a job!” 

Furthermore, students are beginning this process much earlier, as indicated by the remarkable prevalence of the “getting a head start” mindset among freshmen, many of whom are already crafting the perfect record. 

From the commonality of the pragmatic approach to college, it is quite evident that the unforgiving “real world” is becoming the main source of motivation for students at Villanova, as well as at most other universities, in declaring their majors. 

The prospect of employability is becoming the most important factor in students’ priorities, and far too often, the “passion” subjects of study are sacrificed for the practical, employer-friendly subjects. 

If, on a rare occasion, students decide to pursue a passion that does not offer job security, they stand at a crossroads—do they forgo their passions for what is rational, or do they take a risk and immerse themselves fully in their passions, remaining hopeful that their unconfined learning will give them a place in the real world? 

In my opinion, it is not worth sacrificing intellectual passion for pragmatic reasons, no matter how secure the safer route appears. In the general scheme of life, it is much wiser and more fruitful for students to harness the intellectual passions they are fortunate enough to find upon exploration. 

Amidst all the pragmatism and job-oriented actions, the labors of love for your field of study will be what truly reward you, with regard to both your academics and your sense of personal purpose. 

And not only will employers come to value true passion for the job and those who work for the love of working over those who desire the work out of sheer pragmatism, but the existence of idealism in our calculative reality is a much more valuable commodity than overrated practical thinking can ever be. 

So, despite the outside world making its daunting presence known to us, do not be afraid to act on the idealism and optimism of our youth during your four short years—we are in college after all.