The Creative Undergraduate: Why We No Longer Care, and Just Want To Be Done
February 18, 2017
Most college students have a vague idea of what they want to be when they grow up. They are certain about one thing, they need a degree… right? My generation was raised on a steady diet of go to school, get good grades, then get a good job. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work like that anymore.
I refer to members of this group as Creative Undergraduates. We are such a dynamic group, we don’t even understand the talents we possess.
The title Creative Undergraduate does not include pre-med students, pre-law students, or people who know precisely what they are doing with their lives. I’m talking about the rest of us, who see mommy bloggers and YouTubers financially supporting their families. They are paid to write articles like, “How to Replicate the Statue of Liberty Using Old Books and the Fading Adhesive of Forgotten Dreams.”
During finals week, I am more creative than at any other time during the year. All of my skills fuse together as I carefully complete procrastinated school work at the last minute. I submit all final papers in one draft. The paper’s arguments are loosely banded to form, what I know is, acceptable undergraduate work.
It takes tremendous creativity to produce a term paper the night before it is due, at 4 a.m., while drinking Red Bull and eating Ramen Noodles. We spend more time worrying that we have evenly spread the tiny packet of flavoring than on our mandatory works cited page.
What is wrong with this picture? Undergraduates are repeatedly rewarded for apathetic attitudes and half-cocked work. Do we still pass our classes? Yes. Do we still get degrees? Yes. Okay, so what happens?
Somewhere between 1990 and 2016 the value of a bachelor’s degree fell and is now considered little more than an expensive high school diploma. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the average annual cost of a bachelor’s degree in 1990 was $4,009. The same degree in 2014 was $14,957. Despite rising costs, the value has gone down, it feels like everyone has a bachelor’s degree, just like it feels seems everyone has a high school diploma.
In high schools across america, seniors discuss which trade school, junior college or university to attend. Whether by peer pressure, self-determination or parental coercion, continuing education is all but assumed as the next step. So we chose a school and began our “education.” I refer you back to the Ramen Noodle example.
My generation feels like an high school athletic all-star on the first day of U.S. Army Basic Training, nobody cares. In the real world, the degree doesn’t matter but experience does. Look on any job search and read the first ten descriptions. Most of them are wanting to hire a self-starter. Someone who works well with others and can creatively solve problems in a dynamic field. Oh, and the company requires five to seven years of experience.
How many people do you know who are working in a field related to the degree they earned? Many never see this dream for two reasons. The first is simple, the career field wasn’t hiring and that graduate needed a job and they settled for whatever was available. On the flip side, many students pour years into a degree only to learn they actually hate what they are studying.
As this unhealthy culture surrounding a university education spreads, it’s no wonder my generation ends up doing one of two things.
The first group never graduates. They change their declared major every one or two years. They learn a little bit about everything, including how many children Sacagawea bore. This group often joins the military, the police academy, they buy a bar or start a band.
The second group beats their heads against the academic wall. They hope one day the blunt force trauma will result in something other than a piece of paper representing the blood of our dearly-departed self.
As undergraduates, we see our friends diving head first into either group. This is why we no longer care and are so desperate to graduate. Have you ever heard the quip about what they call doctors who earned “C’s” in medical schools? (They call them doctors, by the way)
Are students at all universities and colleges facing this same problem?
On a scale of 1 to Insane, how difficult was the majority of your undergraduate school work?
How many hours per week did you spend on homework outside class? Be honest.
Leave a comment telling us what your experience has been. Also, if you have a suggestion on how we can begin to change this culture, we would love to learn about it.