Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

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October 4, 2022

What is college for?

Joshua Grenier

Most students I’ve met at UT see their time here as a step on the path toward their future career. I see this development as part of the trend of schools becoming places where you learn how to work rather than how to live. Students should take advantage of the freedom of college to explore themselves and the world, instead of going to classes for the sake of an overpriced credential. 

“I chose to come to college because my parents would always tell me that you needed that higher education, help you in life, get better jobs, get better experience. So it was more about a practical mindset,” said Ananth Rangan, an electrical and computer engineering senior.

According to the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce individuals with a bachelor’s degree earn 74 percent more than those with a high school diploma, demonstrating why so many people see college as a practical investment.

“I think that one of the things that’s happened certainly over the last 10 to 15 years is a greater focus on the financial return on a college education, and when I was going to go into college, there was a belief that college would help you to get a good job, but I don’t think it was cast in stark financial terms of I’m investing this amount of money, how much money am I making on the other end of it,” said Art Markman, professor of Psychology and vice provost for Academic Affairs.

With this mindset, school feels like a company, with students doing everything and anything they can to maximize their shareholder value — GPA. Parents wait every semester to see the earnings report. Ultimately, students sacrifice understanding of material and toe the line of academic honesty in order to get that sweet 4.0.

Students practice the skills they will use in the workplace, such as meeting deadlines, sitting in meetings for hours on end, and figuring out the bare minimum to finish work, instead of embracing the opportunity to understand what they really want from life in a deeper sense. 

Focusing only on the hard skills that you can claim and demonstrate in interviews takes away from the value of soft skills that are essential to progression in life.

“I think one value of a college education is from the social aspect, there’s a lot of ways for you to join different clubs, join different orgs, kind of find your people and I guess put yourself in an uncomfortable position,” said informatics freshman Rushil Vankamamidi.

“A lot of what an effective college education does, it does two big things, it teaches you how to learn and it makes you a disciplinary thinker,” said Markman.“Most people don’t know how to talk about [those skills]. They’ll say, ‘ell, I have good people skills’ but what does that mean?”

Students can learn most of the information taught at UT on their own, but one of the irreplaceable things about coming to college is learning how to think about ambiguous issues and make them into concrete problems, whether it be dealing with difficult relationships, complex academic questions or what makes you happy. 

You can’t stop working and start living if you haven’t figured out how you want to live your life.

Chandran is an advertising sophomore from Plano, Texas.

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