BERGER: Professional priorities

Students should focus on work experience rather than their social lives during college

Recently, University professor Josipa Roksa of the Sociology department contributed to a Wall Street Journal article regarding the efficacy of college education today. Professor Roksa and New York University professor Richard Arum tracked more than 1,600 students during college and about 1,000 for two years after their 2009 graduation dates. Their findings specifically underline the importance of social lives to college students and show that often times students choose social activities over those that may help them with their future career paths.

Social activities, such as clubs and other co-curriculars, are invaluable to one’s college experience, as is the development of interpersonal skills. However, when maintaining a social life becomes detrimental to one’s professional future, a line needs to be drawn. Professor Roksa writes, “While the amenities and social engagement don't seem to matter for labor-market outcomes, some things that happen in college do matter. When students get internships in college, it leads to better employment outcomes afterward.” It is not too much social activity that negatively impacts students, but rather it is not enough work experience; a balance is necessary.

A recent Gallup poll showed college graduates who had an internship or job in which they applied what they were learning in the classroom, who completed long-term projects in those classes and who were part of clubs and organizations during college nearly doubled their odds of being engaged at work later in life.

It is difficult to find a job, and more importantly to succeed in one, without any sort of experience. Professor Arum made a valid point about today’s college experience when he said, College graduates “weren't adequately prepared during college to make successful transitions… they didn't develop the attitudes and dispositions during college associated with adult success…they studied alone little more than an hour a day, and for that effort they received high grades… So they learned in college that success comes relatively easily.”

This is the fault of students, not universities. Many students do the bare minimum and maintain a high grade point average, but it is important to remember that we are not paying for our grades; we are paying for an education, the value of which is dependent on what we learn in our time here at the University. We get out of classes what we put in, and will get nothing if we don’t absorb the lessons and learn how to apply them to our careers.

There are plenty of opportunities offered to students to become more immersed in their future professional areas, and it is up to the students to take advantage of those opportunities. The University already offers career services and on-grounds interviewing, but perhaps they could promote those opportunities more and explain to students that, while these opportunities are optional, they are essential. Additionally, students could have more career-based assignments in their respective major classes. Moreover, some classes in the Politics and Education departments require a certain number of experience hours per semester. For example, Curry students might have to volunteer in a classroom at a local high school for 12 hours to complete the class. These are just a few of the ways that the University and students can proactively prepare for the professional world.

Since social lives today are as important as ever and since vocational schooling is not as popular as it once was, we all need to actively take advantage of our educational opportunities. By concentrating in class and doing more internships pertaining to our desired professions, we can prevent unemployment, economic inequality and overall professional failure.

Meredith Berger is an Opinion Columnist for The Cavalier Daily. She can be reached at m.berger@cavalierdaily.com.

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