Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Soapbox E-mail

The following is an e-mail I sent out to the Today show this morning in response to a series focusing on the college application process for three high school seniors. At last, a real-world application of my high falutin' classes on rhetoric.


To Whom It May Concern:

I've just seen the introduction to Today’s series on the college application process, and I agree that this process is very important and can be very stressful. However, as a recent college grad, I believe that there is too much emphasis right now on getting into college and not as much interest in the process of finding a job and a place to live after graduation. This second process has higher stakes and a much lower success rate, and so many students have a vague view of it.

As a high-achieving senior in high school, I was taught that once I was accepted into college, the world would be my oyster. All I had to do was get into The Right School and that was it. When I graduated from college, I had a strong degree under my belt and two internships with contacts who could give glowing references, and I was prepared to have a smooth transition into the so-called real world.

I was a fairly naive job-seeker, but I quickly came to find that I was at the mercy of hiring managers. My lack of real experience was the greatest strike against me, despite my internships. I was very diligent in tracking my resume progress, following up after the requisite ten days, and I know that out of 40 resumes submitted within a period of ten weeks, I received all of two interviews. Ultimately, I found a decent job with great benefits by the time I needed to pay my rent, but it was hardly the smooth transition I had envisioned. Although I had a marketable degree, I wasn't special - I was one of many, many college graduates vying for a fixed number of positions. I worked very hard to avoid having to move back home, and I was fortunate to find a position. I doubt that the students the show is profiling aspire to live in their parents' houses for the first year or two out of school, but that is an increasingly popular trend.

I found the process of applying to college much easier and user-friendly than that of finding a job. For me, the college application process was friendly and welcoming; they made me feel as though they wanted me to come join them at their school. Assuming I was accepted to the school, I was in a position of power, and I was able to weigh pros and cons for my future. In the job application process, however, no one other than me was invested in whether I received a job. Hiring managers looked for excuses to eliminate, whereas admissions officers looked for a wide pool of applicants. These days, each resume receives about ten seconds of face time, which is a stark contrast to the hours admissions officers spend to determine the incoming freshman class.

My intent is not to downplay the college application process but to emphasize the lack of education available for the job search. The assumption that a college education is a free pass to a well-paying, prestigious job and the opportunity for select housing is completely unfounded. While the college application process is certainly a turning point in students' lives, the job search dictates where that person will live and what standard of living is affordable; it is the potential launching pad for the future of the person's career. College only lasts for four years, but the job search can affect one's entire working life, which might last for more than forty years.

I think a series on the job search for graduating seniors in college would be a reasonable follow-up to this current series. I would recommend, however, not focusing on only high-achieving students in highly attractive courses of study; rather, a cross-sample of students of all courses of study would be more accurate. After all, I believe the most popular majors are psychology and communications, not engineering and business.

I'm sure that this e-mail address receives a lot of mail everyday, and I hope that my e-mail does not get lost in the shuffle. After living through this process, which was by far the most discouraging and desperate experience I’ve had, I feel very strongly that college students need much more education and perspective on what is waiting for them. To focus major news stories solely on the college search helps to perpetuate this myth that a college degree entitles that graduate to a well-paying, exciting career and comfortable living. I believe that is a disservice to a growing population of Americans.

Thanks for your time,


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