With another school year officially underway, I’m again trying to summarize and explain my purpose at university to new friends and acquaintances. But if you are offended by the blank looks, unrelated tangents, or comments questioning your ambition that ensue every time you mention your degree, it might be time for a reality check.
It is okay for people to criticize our degrees and, unless we are also willing to do the same, we might be completely missing the point of pursuing ‘higher education.’
Therefore, it’s time to come out of our student bubbles to take a closer look at ourselves and our verbose disciplines.
Many university degrees have no practical aspect to them beyond self-discovery. They leave students no better prepared to get a job in the real world or make a considerable difference in the area to which they have just devoted four-plus years of their life.
We must remember this when we try to explain the conceptual ideas that lay the foundation for our degree. Sure, the debate pitting practicality against the ‘value of advanced education’ does not come down squarely on one side. Most of us haven’t tried to apply our discipline in the real world yet, so the critics may have a point. I’ve begun to realize that applying my degree will be harder than it seems.
It’s time to come out of the student bubble to take a closer look at ourselves and our verbose discipline.
Furthermore, whether you’re working on your bachelors, postgraduate, or doctorate, you are not superior in society and your opinion does not automatically become more scholarly. In fact, though you might be offended when friends or family don’t invest the time to understand what your degree is all about, maybe their apathy is a sign that a connection is missing. Remember being a student is not an accomplishment in itself and it doesn’t command respect.
Moreover, the privilege to be able to spend a good deal of time in the pursuit of knowledge cannot be overstated. The jaded questions that come after you announce yet another degree might be out of envy rather than ignorance. So, humbly approach your time off from the full-time workforce and your interest-free student loans, because there are very few who are able to enjoy these luxuries.
In the end, your degree is what you make of it. You can carve out your own path and make the experience meaningful, or you can put your guard up whenever you meet a questioning face.
If you are investing time and energy into your degree and you feel people are not acknowledging that, remember they are not necessarily trying to undermine your future — they’re just giving you a large dose of the harsh reality.
Not everyone is going to understand or agree with your choices in life, and we have to find a way to work through this. I don’t feel that university is a mistake — it is a place for personal growth and it puts our real world experiences in check. Let’s be proud of our degree, but still conscious of the bigger picture.