Peters: Worth It
At Dartmouth, students often face a significant amount of pressure to leave this place with a finished product. This product must show your peers, professors, family and local community that your education was worth it. With that product, you can now point to something that will validate your time and investment into your schooling. Just graduating is no longer something most people believe is “good enough.” Not only do students need to graduate on time, they also have to do so with a two-year plan for afterward. The pressure to have your “next big step” outlined and secured is intensified, as that is what people use as a measure of success. The question college students hear, possibly as early as junior spring is, “So what’s next?” Not having an answer to that question can feel like you have not done enough. Often, this pressure reduces the time spent struggling and working to achieve the entity that validates one’s time at college: the diploma.
The pressure makes sense. It’s a competitive job economy and there is a need to pay bills after we graduate. Some students face more economic responsibilities than others, and some students want to be financially independent. We all have our own very logical reasons for our feelings. As a graduating senior, I am surrounded by peers that are constantly worried about their next step. Some of them are genuinely excited about their jobs, graduate school or fellowships, while others feel like getting the degree should be enough. Most students recognize that there will be a “next step,” but some want to take more time to figure it out.
The people that want to take their time are still surrounded by a majority that feels like being in senior winter without a job is outrageous and even embarrassing. There are people that are happy with finding a job within the couple of months after graduation. Yet, the need and common expectation to have an end product that you can point to as your next big step can undervalue the immense significance of graduating with a college degree.
Because college tuition has become so expensive, the need for an end product that will start returning on your investment is immediate. Many people cannot afford to take time after school to regain their footing. Some students do not have the privilege to choose a lower-paying job over the corporate one or to recover from possibly traumatic experiences in their time in college.
I feel the stress, and I know I am not the only one. The time spent wondering whether you made the right decision to come here, whether college really was worth it and whether you need to have a set post-graduate life can leave you blind to the immense accomplishment of leaving college with a degree. As someone from a small town, I decided to enroll at Dartmouth College, knowing a lot of people questioned whether this incredibly pricey liberal arts education was worth it or not. Everyone has their own answer to that question, but to me it was worth it — not because of my end product. Coming here has helped me grow in ways that my small town did not allow me to. I want to take a second and say to my peers that in the end, you know what is best for you, in terms of post-graduation plans. Try to ignore everyone else and focus on yourself. It’s an accomplishment to graduate from college, no matter how long it may have taken you, and it is good enough.