What Happens When Apathetic College Students Graduate?

by Jason Fertig

When people who see college as simply the purchase of a credential graduate, are their minds permanently closed to intellectual pursuits, or can the proverbial light bulb click on in their heads?

On the NAS site, I build upon the student-apathy essay that I wrote last month for Minding the Campus. What happens after apathetic students graduate college? From my experiences, the majority leave very jaded:

As I interact and advise graduating seniors, I am struck by the increasing jadedness that they show towards their educational experience. There is no sense of accomplishment, only cries of “I just want to get done.” To be fair, any time people spend 4+ years working on something, there is bound to be a part of them that suffers from mental exhaustion. These students, however, are not exhausted from “working on” anything. Rather, their state of mind is akin to how someone looks at a second slice of pumpkin pie at Thanksgiving dinner after he has already downed 5000 calories of turkey, gravy, stuffing, potatoes, green bean casserole, and that first slice of pie.

The present college students’ degrees are similar to being required to eat 120 items on a buffet with only minimal guidance as to which items to eat in what order. By item 110, their belts are undone and they can hardly walk; yet they waddle up for their final helpings. Only Joey Chestnut would immediately run back for more after finishing. How different would the educational part of college be if students had a well-prepared five-course meal where each item complemented the previous one?

The comments on my piece also worth noting — proving that the vapidness of much of higher education is only part of our battle. What are the options for parents and students who really value an “education” over a “credential?” That narrative needs the volume turned up.