Watching my portfolio-clutching peers rush to interviews in suits and heels, I can't help but think of going through sorority rush two years ago (replace the portfolios with nametags decorated with stickers from CVS).
"Who are you interviewing with?"
"Where did you get asked back for round two?"
"Do you think the Bain interviewer will judge me for wearing this skirt?"
"Do you think the girls in (house X) would judge me for wearing these shoes?
"I can't believe he got at interview with Goldman and I didn't! My GPA is higher than his!"
"I can't believe she got asked back to (house Y) and I didn't! I know so many more girls in the house than she does!"
"Are you rushing?"
"Are you doing corporate recruiting?"
As a sophomore I never seriously considered opting out of rush. My social life up to that point had largely revolved around Greek houses and it seemed like joining a sorority would add structure to my social life, taking the guesswork out of the crucial "what-to-do-on-Wednesday-night" and "When-will-I-ever-wear-that-formal-dress" debates. Looking back on my time at Dartmouth I'm sure that I would have been perfectly happy saving the money I have spent on dues and hanging out with my friends when I felt like it, rather than feeling like I wasn't getting my "money's worth" if I didn't go to every meeting and social event on my house's calendar. Nevertheless, the thought never entered my mind at the time.
Just as pledging a fraternity or sorority seems to take the guesswork out of one's social life, corporate recruiting streamlines the employment search process for undergraduates. At least, it streamlines the process of finding consulting or finance jobs wile leaving the rest of us high and dry. Perhaps this is why so many people, regardless of how fresh-faced and idealistic they were as they entered college, end up participating in the process.
Many of my friends cite a desire to earn money and try something new as their motivation for joining the recruiting frenzy. Nevertheless, there are other ways to make money for a couple years before settling into a career path. A friend of mine living in Hanover is making buckets of cash running around with athletic dogs whose owners work full time. Another is working as a shuttle driver in a ski resort, enjoying free skiing and earning enough to pay rent and feed herself off of three days a week of work. My cousin earned fame and fortune creating a website and book about how to "cook to bang" (yes actually).
Alternative paths involve a measure of creativity, independence and uncertainty all things that the Dartmouth culture, whether intentionally or unintentionally, seems to discourage. Yet many of the most successful people in the world had to think outside of the box in order to arrive where they are today. They didn't simply keep their nose to the grindstone they cut corners and took some risks.
Some of us may sincerely want to work in consulting or finance long-term and others might have a crystal-clear idea of what they want to study in graduate school. To those people I say, "More power to you!"
But for those of us who have no clue what we are doing after graduation, we may be setting ourselves up for disappointment by conforming to the norm. Anyone who spent time in a frat basement lately knows that Dartmouth seniors are far from "grown-up." (I certainly include myself in this generalization.) But we no longer live in the 1950s. We don't have to grow up yet. We still have time to figure out what we are truly passionate about, while still earning enough to get by in the process. This option won't get fed to you from a silver spoon. You may get some quizzical (envious?) looks from suit-clad peers when you tell them your plans to become a professional ski bum while pondering your next career move. But down the line when those same peers are entering their mid-life crises and you're getting paid to do what you love, you'll be the one laughing.