I graduated college yesterday.
I type that sentence and it seems so foreign to me. I have to sit here and reread it a few times before it sinks in. Sometimes it feels so strange to think that I’m an adult with a college degree when just yesterday I was a small child barely out of elementary school.
Technically I have been a college graduate since December. I have had my diploma framed on the wall beside my computer desk for months. But because I graduated in December instead of May, there was no commencement ceremony. I had to wait until today to don my cap and gown and be recognized for my achievements.
There were a few to name. Not as many as some, but enough to be proud of what I have accomplished. I achieved a 3.904 GPA which earned me summa cum laude honors. I was invited to join the Phi Kappa Phi honor society. I made it through five years of toil and hard work and I graduated college.
We live in a society that seems to be revaluing college, and that’s a real issue. As I stood today in academic regalia with my peers I realized how fortunate we were to be graduating. While the arena may have been full to the brim of graduating seniors, we seem to be a minority group. It seems to be that a lot of people are opting for the path of least resistance. Instead of grinding through another four years of schooling for a degree, they graduate high school and jump into the work force equipped with nothing more than a high school education.
A quick glance over my Facebook friends list reveals a rather obvious trend. Most of my friends from high school did not continue on to college. Most of them jumped in to minimum wage jobs, got married, and had kids. Good for them. But where does a college education fit in?
I would never speak ill of someone who works for a living. The truth is that all jobs are worth something. Odd jobs, seasonal jobs, fun jobs, tough jobs, bad jobs, good jobs…they’re all jobs. Yet, I believe there is a marked difference between having a job and having a career. One implies hourly wages and meager pay. The other promises a salary, a benefits package, and (most importantly) a future of growth.
I feel like our nation, as great as it may be, is stumbling. I’m not a political scientist and I won’t pretend to be one. I won’t make wild accusations or drone on about how to “save” the future of America. But I will offer you my opinion.
I think we need to revalue education. We need to encourage more kids to make the commitment to a four year college degree. We need to find a way to catch their interest in college arts and hold it. We need to lower the cost of education and raise the quality (never an easy task). We also need to accept that not every high school grad is college material, and have training programs in place. To me, it felt like we were all dropped off the grid after high school. We graduated and then we were lost. No one cared anymore where we went or what we did. Seventeen is too young to be left to your own devices, I think.
I want to see the graduating classes get bigger and bigger. College was a good step for me and I know it would be a good step for others. But we have to break the cycle that I keep seeing among my peers. Highschool -> married -> babies -> minimum wage job just doesn’t cut it forever.
Yet enough of my rambling. Congratulations class of 2013. I hope all the best is in your future.