Students should use their time on campus to explore their interests

Marisa Charpentier

I can’t help but agree with author William Deresiewicz when he claimed in a July article in The New Republic: “Don’t send your kid to the Ivy League.” And as we stuff our backpacks with books from the Co-Op and alter our alarm clocks in preparation for a new school year, I also can’t help but feel Deresiewicz’s ideas are relevant, even 1,960 miles away from Harvard University. 

As an incoming freshman, my first week on campus was filled with the same interrogation process  — name? hometown? and, of course, what’s your major? Even as first-year students, we are already shoving ourselves into intellectual boxes. While it’s certainly exciting to finally get the chance to study something we are passionate about, I’m worried that in the process we will become career-chasing robots — people who have forgotten the original purpose of higher education.  

Deresiewicz argues that four years of undergraduate study dedicated to career preparation is a waste; students shouldn’t expect a “return” in the form of jobs or money but should instead learn to think. 

When I graduate from college, I certainly don’t want to be the type of person who is unable to think for myself or understand concepts outside my area of expertise. College is supposed to be the place where we broaden our horizons and gain a well-rounded education. We learn who we are outside the comfort of our own homes and learn not simply how to become good doctors or engineers, but how to become good citizens and contributors to society. 

The UT Mission and Core Purpose instills motivation for students to achieve just that. If we are a part of a university that aims to “transform lives for the benefit of society,” we should take it upon ourselves to take advantage of the diverse courses UT has to offer. We should take the opportunity to explore books and different ways of thought instead of focusing simply on getting the top scores and adding accomplishments to our resumes just for the sake of adding them to our resumes. 

The job obsession is often parent-based. Parents may force their children to choose a major they think will allow their children to attain a specific career. With that kind of pressure, students will not feel encouraged to reach outside their own majors, more than they are required to, to explore the diverse knowledge that college can provide. 

Human development and family sciences freshman Madison Ermenio said she finds such efforts beneficial.

“Interacting with students in other majors can help you learn about other fields and how they impact society,” Ermenio said. “You are going to encounter a lot of different situations in the real world.”

The truth is, careers today are always changing. The most valuable employees are the ones who can react to such changes. Research shows that fewer than two in five managers found college graduates to be job-ready in their own field. While chasing a single career, we can’t allow ourselves to lose vital skills such as creativity and critical thinking.

In the end, perhaps the most important force in establishing a well-rounded education is student initiative. Students can feed a curious mind and explore fields outside their own major by reaching out to others and exploring their interests. 

Charpentier is a Plan II and journalism freshman from Dallas.