Essential Information for the College Bound -- Spring 2011



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Taking The Next Step
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As graduation season arrives, so do the messages in commencement addresses celebrating graduates as the promise for the future. The caps are tossed in the air capturing the euphoria of having successfully completed four years of college. The graduates are ready to fulfill their promise. However, in this current time of high unemployment in America, it may be difficult to do so, at least immediately. Much has been said, recently, about the difficulties college graduates face finding jobs that match their education and their abilities.

In the May 19 New York Times, Many With New College Degree Find the Job Market Humbling, there is an extensive discussion of college graduates settling for jobs that do not require a college degree at low salaries - and considering themselves lucky to find a job of any sort. There is concern, however, that taking these jobs with no relationship to future goals might make it difficult to get back on track to the intended career when the economy rebounds. For some this means a better choice would be to pursue graduate school, immediately. Others are faced with paying off existing student loans before they can consider graduate school.

So are these positive commencement exhortations doing our 2011 graduates a disfavor? Tali Sharot a Research Fellow at the Wellcome Trust Center for Neuroimaging at University College London, shares both the glass half full and the glass half empty perspectives in answering this question. Her article, Major Delusions, appeared in the May 15 New York Times.

Looking at the glass as half full, she postulates that optimism is a good thing. "Believing a goal is attainable motivates us to get closer to our dreams." Today's graduates ". . .will be more successful, healthier and happier if they hold on to positively biased expectations."

Looking at the glass half empty, Sharot exhorts "cautious optimism". "Believe you can fly, with a parachute attached, and you will soar like an eagle."

In these tumultuous times laced with economic crises, many college graduates may find their college education has not allowed them to grab the Golden Ring - at least not immediately. Yet, to lose faith in the value of their education would be short sighted. Today is prelude to tomorrow. And the optimists, armed with a solid college education, will believe that tomorrow will be better. They will acknowledge a job side-step as a disappointment, but recognize working through that disappointment as strengthening once the desired opportunity comes along.

For those entering college our weakened economy often evokes questions as to whether the rising costs of a college education - especially at elite private colleges - can be justified. Such questions, coupled with diminished job prospects for today's college graduates, could be prelude to questioning the basic value of a college education. A college education should be viewed as more than an investment in an employment opportunity. It is an investment in intellectual growth and self-discovery.

Now that my high school seniors are moving into college, I am eager to see you study widely, establish your goals and select the major concentrations that will prepare you to reach those goals. I want you to see the glass as half full as you delve into your college education and reach for a meaningful future with cautious optimism. My wish for you is to dare to dream, and in the words of Langston Hughes,

"Hold fast to dreams
For if dreams die
Life is a broken winged bird
That cannot fly

Hold fast to dreams
For when dreams go
Life is a barren field
Frozen with snow"