Opinion: What are you getting out of your education?

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OPINION- You’ve dusted off your textbooks, you’ve neatly filed all of your syllabi into your color-coded folders and you’ve dutifully begun highlighting key portions of your readings that might rear their ugly heads on the next exam, but what did you actually learn the first weeks back in school?

Was it anything worthwhile?

I learned what Western European intellectuals thought about the Industrial Revolution in the 19th and 20th centuries.

I learned what a state is and what types of contracts define it.

In taking a five-minute quiz, I proved to my teacher that I knew the difference between a system and a society.

While many of these classes are generally tolerable, and can be mildly interesting when applying proper effort and attitude, none of them are going to get me a job after graduation.

I can’t quantify what I learned in my European Intellectual Thought class on my resume. My potential employer doesn’t want to know what I learned in the hour and fifteen minutes I spent sitting in that class on Tuesday. They don’t care whether I got an A- or a B+ on the latest quiz.

They want to know if I can interact with people, if I can solve problems, if I can deal with a crisis situation, if I can think creatively and do something new for them that no one has done for them before.

They want to know what I can do for them. They want to know how I will boost their company profits, or how I will improve their image, or how I will help their organization expand forward into the future.

In today’s volatile economic world, job seekers need to work harder than ever to distinguish themselves from the crowd. Simply getting through college with a one-semester internship isn’t good enough anymore. If you want to compete, you need not only to have a degree, you need to have had a part-time job, several internships, plus some sort of volunteer experience to show that you have a heart, too.

Unfortunately, today’s students don’t seem to be getting that message.

My classmates proved this to me last Thursday night as I sat in my International Affairs Senior Seminar.

The instructor asked each of us to identify why we chose to be International Affairs majors, what class we had most enjoyed at CU, our favorite IA topic and, finally, our favorite IA job or internship that we have held.

Most of my classmates didn’t even make it to the “which was your favorite” part of the job/internship question. Most of them didn’t make it past their opening sentence of “Well, I’ve never really had an International Affairs job or internship….”

You’ve never had experience in your field outside of the classroom? As a senior student graduating in May, you have had zero experience in your field? Are you expecting your employers to take a chance on someone with no experience just because they have a good feeling about you, when there are hundreds of people who do have the experience they want? Would you hire someone with no experience over someone with years of experience?

Likely not.

Is the problem that the university and its professors aren’t encouraging real-life experience outside of the classroom, or is it the fault of the students for believing that a degree on a piece of paper entitles them to a job in the post-graduation world?

The fault is likely a joint failing. Professors aren’t emphasizing the importance of an out-of-classroom experience and students are too lazy to get off Facebook and find out what the real world expects of them after they graduate.

It is a failing of our educational system and our culture that most students are leaving the university prepared for nothing more than a year-long pursuit of jobs.

The sad thing is most of us are learning this lesson too late for it to make a difference. Is it too late for you? Maybe it’s time to wake up and realize college is about more than curriculum and classes.

College is pre-gaming for life and real-world employment: Get in the game.

Contact CU Independent Ambassador Kate Spencer at Katherine.a.spencer@colorado.edu.

CU Independent

The CU Independent, or CUI for short, is the student news outlet for the University of Colorado at Boulder. We cover news, sports, politics, opinion, arts and entertainment and more. Our mission is to provide news and commentary that's for students and by students — about the things we care about.

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