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Making your own definitions

Geneva Mueller
Geneva Mueller

I think it’s fair to say that we all bust our butts throughout our college career. People excel in different realms, and getting a college education challenges you to stretch yourself pretty thin and face-off against your preconceived notions of your academic strengths. And at the end of four years or so, we all receive our diploma, with a smile on our face and a question in our hearts as to what it all really means to us.

Maybe it is a fault of the educational system or maybe it’s just a generational phenomenon, but this lackluster sense of post-graduation confusion is becoming increasingly commonplace. Graduating from college, although still a luxury, is becoming more of an expectation than a conscious decision for many people. Although we work incredibly hard to get here and obtain a quality education, it often seems that there are no other options.

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Because of this, an increasing number of people from our generation are entering the workforce, fortified with a college degree. This has led to a paradigm shift towards graduate school and professional degrees. If everyone has a bachelor’s degree these days, what does it truly mean?

The answer, unfortunately, is not much. These pieces of paper have become somewhat arbitrary and after graduation, many students are left with an overall sense of discomfort and lack of direction. Although many will continue to pursue postgraduate degrees and end up fulfilling all of their wildest aspirations, this initial sense of uncertainty is disconcerting to those who have just spent a fortune on a momentarily meaningless degree.

But, contrary to what others might believe, I think this sense of ambiguity actually reinforces further success. Despite the fact that further education can never be a bad thing due to its nature as a positive externality, this post-grad scramble forces us to make our degrees mean something to us. Regardless of what our degrees may mean to potential employers, our peers and the rest of the academia, there is no denying that we put in thousands of hours to obtain them.

Sometimes it seems really daunting to be walking down a four year path that doesn’t lead to an immediate payout. It can certainly lead to frustration and disenchantment. But this isn’t really a fault of the educational system and we should all be incredibly thankful that we live in a world where we have the resources that force us into the increasingly competitive job market.

The fact of the matter is that nobody really cares if you have a bachelor’s degree anymore.

You have to search for your own definition within that. Whether it was four years of studying, or partying or bonding with your friends, something kept you trucking along towards your graduation date. And when all is said and done, you are the only one who can make a judgment as to whether or not you spent your time here at CSU in a meaningful way.

In a way, this system has allowed us to take our education into our own hands and increased our personal accountability. We are here, obtaining an education not because we are guaranteed a job at the end of it all, but because we believe in the value and experience of obtaining a higher education. We have accepted our responsibility to society and are making a conscious choice to invest in ourselves and those around us.

We have the power to create our own definitions and truly conceptualize for ourselves what it means to be a college graduate. The bar is constantly on the rise in our ever-competitive world and we have an obligation and a commitment to accurately portray our generation’s working class. The power of perception is increasingly powerful and because of the way the world works, we have been afforded the opportunity to shape how the world sees our generation.

Even though it can seem somewhat fruitless (especially at this time in the semester), we have an obligation to our peers in this generation, to make a statement to the rest of humanity that education is something that we value and take very seriously.

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Because if having a bachelor’s degree is becoming the norm, then doors will open up for those who were previously unable to obtain a higher education. If we can continue to reach the bar every time our forbearers raise it, forthcoming generations will have opportunities to supersede our accomplishments. We’re on the right path by being here; having a college education is an immediate influence-multiplier. But only if we define it as such.

Geneva Mueller is a senior international relations major. Letters and feedback can be sent to letters@collegian.com

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