2012-08-23 / Lifestyles

Some first degrees burn

Lois A. Corcoran

Each week, my son receives a flood of invitations to attend school. You’d think he was Harry Potter. None of them promotes Hogwarts though. These bids are for higher education, after all.

For the past few months, glitzy ads have arrived from pricy colleges all over the country, each vying for our loot. One included a 24- page glossy brochure portraying it in much the same light as heaven.

Another offer read, “Thank you for your interest in (Blank) University.” This prompted us to ask, “What interest?”, given that we’d never heard of the place.

No Ivy League schools beckoned, but one institution sounded every bit as formal. “I’m writing to inform you of the prestigious blah, blah, blah,” read its introduction. I’m surprised they didn’t sign it in blue blood.

Several universities used flattery. “As one of the country’s brightest students...” began one letter. [Aw, shucks. How did they know?] Another read, “You are one of a group of talented seniors chosen to receive our free application.” A very large group, I’d wager.

And why shouldn’t the application be free? It’ll land the place beaucoup bucks from those who enroll. Gosh, they should pay us to apply.

I don’t mean to sound jaded. Universities are wonderful institutions for people who know what they want and where they’re going.

But our life’s mission isn’t necessarily crystal clear at the time of high school graduation. Those uncertain might benefit more from working part time, taking classes at the local college, and learning what their passions are (or aren’t) before racking up a student loan.

Not many people know what they want to do for a living before they actually start doing it. Plenty of folks get a degree, only to discover that they dislike their chosen field.

Others can’t find employment. They learn the hard way that holding a Ph.D. doesn’t necessarily land them a J.O.B. One unemployed graduate said she was even turned down for jobs “quite beneath my skill set.” The reason? She was overqualified.

Still, those glitzy ads continue to lure their share of students with dreams of success. Unfortunately, statistics show that an estimated 40 percent will drop out before receiving a degree. Too bad a 100 percent of them still have to pay off their student loans.

They may need a bit of Hogwarts magic to pull it off.

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