New educational paths should be taken
Thereâs a cookie cutter path weâre all supposed to take in life: Graduate from high school; go to college; finish in four years; and get a job, or continue with more school. More often than not, life doesnât work that way. And it shouldnât have to.
Society seems to hold certain conventions when it comes to studentsâ educational and career paths and certain stigmas for the students brave enough to break them. Twenty-first-century education, however, is evolving with the rest of society, generating more and more alternatives that allow students unprecedented space to take any path we want.
The next step should be greater acceptance of taking the alternative route. Positive dialogue â and more dialogue in general â about these changes in education is key so students feel more comfortable and supported in making different decisions.
Universities offer plenty of services â academic and personal â that should continue to serve as informational resources and support for students.
Today, itâs commonplace that students go abroad or stay abroad for longer periods of time, which underscores the globalization of American universities.
New majors and minors are emerging at campuses across the country, expanding possible tracks to take within one area of study and alternative ways to study almost any subject.
The amount of students staying past the customary four years is increasing, and this is a good thing for the evolution of the educational process in this country.
University education is evolving to be more relevant, more boundless and more flexible.
A degree is important, but not time sensitive. The decision to take time off school to work, to take care of personal responsibilities or to pursue an alternative path should be applauded, not stigmatized. USC does a great job of offering that support; the university even has an Undergraduate Handbook for Leave of Absence that provides steps to follow from the moment students decide to leave to their eventual return.
Universities could also adapt to such changes by promoting flexibility in major and graduation requirements.
Thereâs a critical value to the structure and rigor requirements provide, but universities could do more to match the changing realities of studentsâ educational and life cycles.
The more bureaucratic hoops students have to jump through to do something creative with their majors, or to pursue something outside of school for a semester, the less students will want to even try.
Interrupted or extended education is another result of the dismal financial climate. Current college students and recent graduates were dubbed âGeneration Limbo,â by a recent New York Times article for our stalled careers and life paths.
The article quotes and describes graduatesâ frustration with â[doing] everything [they] were supposed to do,â â working incredibly hard for years in school, mapping out a career, and seeing little to no returns.
Thereâs something to be said for breaking away from the well-beaten path and exploring different options. We canât control the economy. And we certainly shouldnât resign ourselves to âlimbo.â
Doing âwhat youâre supposed toâ does not guarantee results in todayâs economic environment, so why not reinvent our conventional ideas of educational paths and success?
Traditionally, education has been viewed as a static process. In recent years, however, a greater number of students are choosing to take alternative paths to achieve similar goals. Itâs an intriguing time of transition. Itâs time for everyone involved â students, faculty, administrators â to embrace and monitor that transition, and take the next steps forward.
Elena Kadvany is a senior majoring in Spanish. Her column âBeyond the Classroomâ runs Mondays.Â