Please note that the prompt was my own that this is simply a first draft. I need the feedback for an assignment in my ENG102 class, so if you could note the strengths and weaknesses of the essay, that would be great. Thanks!
Students Need Options And College May Not Be The Answer: A Draft
After winter break of senior year, students are turning in their college applications. Of course, not every student does this. Some will go to community college instead, while others will get a job. Millennials and generation z students are losing faith in the systems that has been set up for a different job market. Whatever degree they get, it will be difficult for graduates to pay off loans or even find a job in their chosen field. Entry level jobs requiring digital skills are beginning to increase, something universities are not required to prepare students for. Ultimately, universities need to catch up with the changing job market to maintain their relevance in an ever-changing world. If not, employers will open more opportunities to students with alternative education paths and skills they learned from (cheaper) online resources. Before making the life-changing decision to go to university, students need to understand the common misconceptions, the problems with the current system, the case for going to college, the possible alternatives to a traditional university, and - perhaps most importantly - how to decide between the traditional and the alternative.
The first thing students need to do is understand the common misconceptions about college. Many go to school because they believe it is simply the next step after high school. College was not always the next "logical" step for students after school. At the turn of the eighteenth century, less than ten percent of America had a high school diploma (Davidson). After the second world war, half of young adults had at least had a diploma and the G.I. Bill helped increase the number of young adults with a college degree. However, it is till incredibly important to understand a college degree does not actually guarantee students a job pertaining to their degree. Ryan Craig writes that it is much more difficult to define underemployment -- that is, working somewhere one did not need to go to college to work (Craig). Students often get a job that does not require whatever degree they worked for; instead, they are only able to get jobs below their level of education as they were not prepared for job interviews or simply need to begin paying back student loans. In fact, it was written in the Harvard Business Review that underemployment is at an all-time high of forty-five percent (Abel and Dietz). Another interesting point is that a college degree is easy in some sense and difficult in another. On the one hand, professors have dumbed down courses and lowered the grading curve to make it easier for students to pass courses (Craig). On the other hand, it can be very difficult for students to find a good method of funding their education, groceries, housing, and transportation.
With this information, students need to understand the problems that the current college system to be able to make informed decisions about their future. For instance, college and universities are for-profit. They work to get students enrolled to affect their bottom line. Really, admissions services works at the start of each new school year to get new admissions at the, as they are working to get tuition money out of the student. The methods employed are not always transparent. On college tours, admissions offices make sure students see all the "cool" things on campus, proving the college is fun and will entail an experience, instead of talking about success rates and things like that. In addition, admissions services have been known to report a lower cost of living to persuade potential students to attend their college (Craig). Colleges also continually put out studies that prove a college degree leads to financial stability and higher wages, another way that admissions people get students to enroll. Bill McCarthy writes that, although "higher education leads to higher wages," only sixty percent of students graduate in six years, while the other forty percent never complete studies or take longer than six years to do so (McCarthy). Even with the prestige of graduating from college, a degree does not guarantee a good job or that the student received adequate learning. Students spend only just over two hours on education, perhaps twelve hours per week, but over four hours on leisure activities not including chores (Craig). Interestingly enough, students in modern colleges fail to improve critical thinking and writing capabilities during their college experience according, often attending to a class simply to fill a seat (Craig). Another problem college students face is the anxiety and depression they go through during college. Anxiety is so prevalent amongst that demographic as they are going through a major life transition, the demands of the academic environment, coupled with expectations they may feel pressured by, and it could leave a long-term impact on students extending after they graduate. The most recent students have had record numbers of anxiety and depression, but universities do not always have enough treatment and counseling centers for students (Reilley).
Even all these problems, however, some students would benefit from college based on the funding, the prestige, and the earnings after graduation. Doctors, nurses, and lawyers all require a college degree to get the position, and each of these provide secure jobs with a stable income. Perhaps because the college process is well known, going through college and getting a degree is a respected attainment. Devon Delfino, a writing major, wrote that his time at university was another investment into himself and his career that was an important experience for him, though he did end up with student loans (Delfino). Many college students actually go to college simply because it is expected of them or the next step in schooling, and gives them something of a priority listing when searching for a job after graduation. Working for a degree proves that students are willing to put some amount of effort and time into themselves, as Delfino did. In addition, college majors do give many people a higher earning point than a high school diploma or GED. The unemployment rate goes down and the median usual weekly earnings rise as the level of educational attainment increases (Torpey). In one of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco's Economic Letter, the "benefits of college in terms of higher earnings far outweigh the costs of a degree," (Daly and Bengali).
Though the case for college is fairly strong, students should consider alternatives to college. For instance, there are programs that offer technical training and ensure candidates are ready to go into the workforce as soon as they get out are the next step in education. Last-mile programs, as Ryan Craig calls them, is filling the gap between college and employers, as universities aren't giving students the skills they need to compete in the job market. Colleges do not prepare students for interviews, resumes, and applications, while bootcamps actively set them up and work with every student on that. It can be difficult to find alternatives, but to get students started, Craig has an appendix at the end of his book that lists some of the programs. His appendix gives readers insight into what their options are and how they can benefit from the program. During high school, students can try internships, apprenticeships, earning a certificate, or going to a vocational school part-time to get a head start on their adult life, routine, and post-secondary education (Boyington). Giving readers a chance to understand the realistic array of options they have post-high school graduation is important, because it allows people to find the path in life that best suits their financial situation, learning patterns, and interests.
With the knowledge of universities and its alternatives, students need to understand how to decide between the two, as postsecondary education is important in this job market. In Friedman's Forbes article, he writes that the tuition, student loan amount, major, and profession are especially important to think about when deciding to go to college (Friedman). Going to college depends on money, interest, getting a job afterward and the ability to get through the program efficiently. Instead of looking for "discounts" or small scholarships from the university itself, students should research third-party scholarships, even scholarships that some employers offer. In addition, students should find programs that challenge them, is ranked as good for their major, and spend their time focusing on that, and allowing the experiences to happen along the way without spending time looking for experiences. Choosing between college and an alternative program also depends on the interest someone has in a topic and being able to get a job afterward. Some people learn better hands-on instead of listening to lectures, so looking for alternative bootcamps or vocational schools could help them suit their learning style. Whether students choose a college or alternative, they should make sure to focus on that program without too much digression; in addition, students should be transitioning into a more adult lifestyle. Such things to practice would include learning how to write their own CV and resume, learning how to network, and general practices of living on one's own.
Ultimately, students need to decide what is best for them based on their educational and financial needs. Instead of chasing an experience that may actually prove to put them in debt for much of their adult life, students need to learn how to decide their own path in life before making a regrettable decision. Battling underemployment and the not-so-transparent tactics used by admissions services is an underappreciated fight as there is little concrete data on it, as colleges are the ones carrying out studies - and they are biased, to say the least. College is definitely not the singular option to a post-secondary education, but the public school system pushes every student towards this end, instead of giving light to the alternatives. These alternatives would be largely be cheaper and more efficient methods for students to push themselves into a better socioeconomic standing, though sadly less-respected than the traditional college degree. By researching the traditional, the alternatives, and the key markers of each, students would be able to take charge of their future in an ever-changing socioeconomic and political landscape.
Abel, Jaison and Richard Dietz. "Undereployment in the Early Careers of College Graduates Following the Great Recession." Harvard Business Review, May 31, 2016
American Institute of Stress. "Anxiety in College Students: Causes, Statistics & How Universities Can Help." Stress.org, 21 October 2019
Boyington, Briana. "Consider These Alternatives to a 4-Year Degree." U.S. News, 22 September 2015
Craig, Ryan. A New U: Faster + Cheaper Alternatives to College.
Daly, Mary C. and Leila Bengali. "Is It Still Worth Going To College?" FRBSF Economic Letter, 5 May 2014
Delfino, Devon. "I took out student loans and it was the best decision I made - here's why." Business Insider, 19 July 2018
Friedman, Zack. "Is College Worth It?" Forbes, 13 June 2019
Reilly, Katie. "Record Numbers of College Students Are Seeking Treatment for Depression and Anxiety - But Schools Can't Keep Up." Time, 19 March 2018
Elka Torpey, "Measuring the value of education," Career Outlook, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, April 2018