College Senior Manifesto

I am a senior with four years of inflated world-class university schooling under my belt, and this is my shameless proclamation of post-teen, post-tolerant, collegiate angst.

If you are among the ranks of those earnest, fresh-faced, picket sign-toting millenials at Zucotti Park, baring their souls to sympathetic onlookers and vicious critics alike;

If you are of kindred spirit with the thousands grappling with obsolete tenets they were raised upon and newly-surfacing realities of 21st century existence;

If you too were raised by the internet and confess to learning more from skimming Wikipedia articles than by sitting in any stale classroom you’ve ever encountered (and are guilty of often doing both simultaneously);

If you are perplexed by the proliferation of irritatingly “Smart” devices at your institution that serve more as ostentatious displays of academic pomp than teaching aids, and are in denial about the fact that this is indeed where your tuition is being drained;

If you had to endure the so-called teachings of at least ten atrocious professors for every single competent one;

If you have ever interned, and have been exploited as an intern, and have smiled through gritted teeth at the backward logic of paying for academic credit mandated by companies to which you are providing your services;

If you have ever felt like a number;

If your self-worth has ever been determined by a marginal difference of a decimal point in your GPA;

If you abandoned your dreams to fulfill the dreams of your parents;

If you believe that the entirety of your academic career has been founded upon a self-perpetuating, vicious cycle of meritocracy, in which achievements are dangled before you like bait on fishing line and you are but a single weary, hopelessly earnest fish;

If you pull your hair in frustration at the blatant hypocrisy of pathetic campus “Green” efforts that urge you to sacrifice paper towels while your professors run off hundreds of copies of two-line handouts that could be emailed simply;

If you’ve ever contemplated dropping everything and becoming an autodidact;

If, while slaving over another one of your countless irrelevant papers, you realized how badly you’re itching to work and accomplish something meaningful but are shackled by unreasonable and irrational demands for baccalaureate degrees in any professional field;

If you cried out in rage the first time you heard that today’s BA is worth what a high school degree was two decades ago;

If you hope to emerge victorious at the end of four years’ worth of diligence and hard work, with nothing to show for your efforts but a piece of paper now rendered meaningless by some wack sh-t they’re calling a “higher education bubble”…

Then man, I feel your pain. TC mark

image – ElvertBarnes


More From Thought Catalog

  • oneriver

    this higher education bubble will continue to try and consume me, but I will not let it! 

  • Michael Koh

    enjoyed this, thanks

  • bee

    A BA is worth the same as a high school diploma? I am literally crying out in rage right now! Today’s unfortunately that day for me … 

  • Jesus

    If you like to complain about everything while doing nothing… then you are in the right place.

  • Mila Jaroniec

    I miss college.

  • Ellen

    Maybe try doing a degree that’s actually worth something? Like haven’t people gotten the memo that a degree in post-modernist slant rhyme poetry won’t really put any food on the table? Man I’m doing a business degree with a year abroad in CHINA. Which I’m currently doing and it’s awesome. Graduates of my program typically greet the job market receiving offers of 50k salaries with jobs that require international travel. I’m super stoked about my future life. Like if you want to go to school to learn something that really interests you, then go ahead, and enjoy it. Universities used to be about the sake of learning. But if you’re going to complain about not being able to get a worthwhile job… that’s yr own fault.

    • Anonymous

      i blame society.  16-18 year olds are in no condition to be deciding what the wanna do the rest of their lives.  people haven’t gotten that memo because they’re still told that they can do whatever they want.  biggest lie in the world.   i didn’t go to 5 years of military school to be an engineer because i wanted to have the worst college experience anyone could have.  sure some of these kids make a stupid decision for whatever degree they picked, but the majority of the blame lies elsewhere

      • Ellen

        I guess being raised by Irish immigrants who grew up on the dole and clawed their way to middle class gave me some perspective. Jesus, though, military school? I might just consider poverty rather than enduring that. Chinese unis are strict enough.

      • Kk

        Wow, isn’t someone smug and self-important today. I’m glad you worked hard, chose a lucrative major, and deserve your success because of your immigrant roots. Now please get over yourself. In this economy, you are the exception, not the rule.

      • SFDS

        Is there anything stopping you from working hard and choosing a lucrative major in the same way Ellen has done? 

    • i'm a person

      i think you missed the point of the article.  it’s complaining about the corrupt academic system and society’s skewed priorities.  why is it that liberal arts majors are always condemned for the noble pursuit of knowledge?  should people just drop book learning to be rich fatcat CEOs??

      not everyone is meant to be a business major.  there are people out there that don’t want to put all their energy into money-making and would rather pursue things that interest them. why should they be punished for it?  some societies reward people like that.
      i really hope you don’t seriously believe everyone should aspire to be a business major.  even people graduating from law school are now suffering, so those once-foolproof careers aspirations are no longer relevant.   not to mention the epidemic of crippling debt. happy that worked for you, but be a little realistic.  

      • Ellen

        What about learning a trade? Or looking into a career that is lacking in your area. Maybe nurses, or teachers, or something that will keep you off of food stamps. I know not everyone can be a business major, or a lawyer, or whatever. I just meant that if you’re going to complain about the lack of jobs in whatever you studied, you should step back and consider what you studied. There’s nothing wrong with studying what you want, and someday I might go back and just do an English degree or something I’d get a kick out of. But right now I need to get out of my parent’s house and have a real life, with a job that both interests and challenges me (hence the international travel goal – I don’t want to be a fatcat – I want to meet people and explore the world).

        And learning business in the academic environment is also “book learning”… don’t knock it til you try it.

        I just want to clarify once more that I don’t think there’s anything inherently wrong about studying something that is hard to monetize and yes the people who do so are quite intelligent and have great things to offer the world in terms of ideas but they should also be intelligent enough to realize that the careers available to the people who study those subjects are numbered. It’ll take a while for the current generation of academics to die so they can take those places.

      • i'm a person

        ” the careers available to the people who study those subjects are numbered. It’ll take a while for the current generation of academics to die so they can take those places.”
        Not everyone who majors in non-trade degrees is looking toward a career in academia.  Moreover, you don’t have to “wait for a generation of academics to die” to contribute something to academia….that’s really just ghastly and short-cited.  You can do research, publish things, teach, contribute to knowledge in some other way than holding a tenured position.  This is what’s called “progress”.  What about creating new jobs?  Really, that entire point is absurd.From what I remember from high school, there was never any emphasis on applying toward trade/vocational schools or anything like that.  I went to a competitive magnet school where the emphasis was getting into a top-tier/ivy league university.  Maybe high schools should make this option more clear to high school students, I don’t know.  But right now, speaking strictly from experience, I know that the college search is kind of like a wild goose chase.  Moreover, I don’t know about you, but I had no idea what I wanted to do for a living when I was eighteen years old.  I didn’t declare a major until halfway through college.  SO unless you’re dead-set on a specific profession from grade school, this argument has gaping holes in it.Again, people can’t simply look into careers that are lacking in their area because that’s not how talent/interests/strengths work.  You don’t choose what profession you’re meant for based on your location (but for those that do, when it works, more power to them).  THis is what’s meant by the point “abandoned your dreams to fullfil those of your parents”.

        Realistically you won’t be able to just “go back and do an English degree” because you will likely be too caught up in your career and family.  Life happens, and if you wait for half of it to go by to do something that makes you happy, then I feel sorry for you.

      • DFSD

        I don’t know about you, but being financially indepedent and having the income to pursue some of my other interests which require cash is pretty much fulfilling my own dream, not my parents’.

        While in a perfect world people would all be rewarded for choosing to study what they have passion in and so make contributions to the world that way, we don’t live in such a world. Humans have infinite wants and there are finite resources on this planet. What society wants more of at any point is where the money is. That is basic Supply and Demand.There’s ABSOLUTELY NOTHING WRONG with having dreams and interests, and not wanting to pursue a business degree. You don’t have to earn a lot of money to be happy, and you can make it work eventually. But I feel that the sense of entitlement to monetary compensation for personal cultivation is what’s wrong here.

      • hi

        You don’t have to earn a lot of money to be happy, no.  But not being buried alive in debt would be nice.  You know what else would be nice?  Having a choice to not go to college, to not be buried in debt and still demonstrate that you are a competent person deserving equal pay without a bachelor’s.  But since this is not an option, college is compulsory.  Smart people attend the best colleges because society tells them they should, and because employers have a bias preferring top tier graduates. But the best schools also happen to be the most expensive.  It’s a vicious cycle.

      • FDSFDS

        You don’t see the contradiction in your own argument.

        1) Studying at university costs money
        2) Studying at university gives you an opportunity to earn more money because it makes you more employable.

        The more a degree from a particular university degree lets you earn, the higher it costs because there’s greater demand for places. That’s why a degree from Wharton or HBS costs so much more than a degree from a lower-ranked business school.

        A rational person would choose a particular university if the benefits s/he would receive in the form of a higher salary outweigh the costs of tuition and student debt.

    • Shaina

      And my biology major with an environmental studies minor?  Please, you’re not going to tell me that’s useless too, are you?  And yet the only way I can do real work with it is by going to graduate school, which is super competitive and super duper expensive, and I’m already 30,000 in debt as a junior.  Any job I get in my field is likely going to pay me functionally nothing without a second degree.  My degree is worth nothing except as a stepping stone to another one.  How is that my own fault?   

      • Ellen

        You knew what you signed up for I assume? If you didn’t, I’m sorry, and that sucks. I did a lot of research before picking my program, since I knew school would be so expensive.

      • DFSDFSD

        I feel that the greatest problem we have here is one where people aren’t told what they’re signing up for.

      • hi

        if people had a slew of alternatives, half wouldn’t apply to college in the first place.

      • fDSF

        If applying to college actually worsens lives for no benefit like some might claim then it’s probably better not to apply isn’t it?

      • hi

        that would be a really fantastic option if you could get by without a BA these days.

      • FDSFDS

        See my reply below.

      • Gregory Costa

        You need to be looking at programs where you’re getting a stipend/fee waiver, whether it’s by being a TA or research assistant.  I know $18,000/year is peanuts, but everyone in my bio program finds a way to survive off it…and having to only pay $500 a semester is a big bonus.   And, yes, once you get that graduate degree in biology, you’re going from making $35-40,000/year to a double in salary.  So I’m with you on its being necessary. 

    • ap

      Are you always going to be such an ass? I went to high school and college with countless twits just like you— all you can think about is operating within the system, and you don’t even bother looking at what it is you’re contributing to by doing that. You’ll get your staid, boring business education, get your well-paying job, go for the next promotion, and the next, and the next, and do absolutely nothing with your life that changes anything beyond your life. Now, I’m not saying that ‘post-modernist slant rhyme poetry’ is any different— it’s really not— but the one thing I can’t stand is hearing from morons like you who choose to put up and shut up, and then insist that everyone do the same. The article, by the author’s own admission, is an expression of her own experience and frustration, so if you can’t respect that just keep your goddamn slavish-business-major opinions to yourself. Take your well-paying corporate job and shut your mouth, spare the rest of the world from suffering through your smug, self-assured bullshit.

      • sdgsdfgds

        Is anything you do going to make people pay you for studying English in university? No.

        The best course is to go in with your eyes open: study English, accept that you won’t be paid so much, and enjoy it. Or maybe take something you’re less interested in and get a job. Both are absolutely valid ways to live. 

        What’s not very smart is to take a degree in English *then* complain that nobody pays you for it. 

      • hi

        An English degree does not send you to the poor house!  In fact, no degree necessitates any job.  It’s not what you major in, it’s what you do OUTSIDE of the classroom that anyone gives a shit about.  Resumes, clips, internships.  That’s the bread and butter of your college experience.  Your academics only matter if you’re furthering your education and need to get into a specific program seeking specific majors and GPAs.  Otherwise, for many if not most jobs, your major is just conversation fodder.  That’s why it’s fucked up that everyone demands BAs in the first place: college degrees for entry-level jobs, why?  It’s not like you learn anything applicable to office work in college.  The issue at hand is, when people WANT to apply for graduate education and have the majors and GPAs and intelligence required for it, they can’t because they’d be paying through the nose for the rest of their lives.  How do you not see the blatant corruption embedded within this system?

      • FSDFD

        I wouldn’t agree that all majors are inapplicable in job interviews, a math degree is definitely a prerequisite for actuarial work for instance. Or a programming degree for employment at a tech firm. Or an engineering degree. Whatever. Consider the fact that you can keep on doing whatever you do outside the classroom no matter what degree you chose to study. If you want to maximize your chances of being employed what’s the _real_ smart course of action?

      • hi

        Not everyone is cut out for science/tech/math fields.  We are discussing the merits of a liberal arts degree.  If everyone followed this logic and pursued degrees that are “marketable,” studying the humanities would be obsolete.  Once you get stuck in a dead-end job, you can’t just “keep on doing whatever you do outside the classroom no matter what.”  That is preposterous. You are proposing to accept the corrupt system and make it work for you, while the author is saying the system is inherently unfair and requires reform.  What makes more sense?

      • SFDS

        What’s unfair and corrupt? There are companies who are willing to pay you so much for so much work you put in, and a lot of that work requires some pretty specialized training represented by specific majors in college degrees. That’s not going to change no matter how much people argue. Degrees in fields that are in higher demand are going to lead to jobs that have higher salaries. That’s not going to change either.

        There are plenty of things in life other than money, but if people want to earn money, they should make the effort to find jobs that can earn them that money, and that give them the leisure to pursue what they find important in life.

  • Charles Manhattan

    you worthless, worthless overly-privileged girl. making a good investment doesn’t necessarily mean majoring in business. if you want to college and you could have gone someplace cheaper, and you majored in something because you were genuinely interested in just learning about it, then you ended up with what you signed up for: knowledge.

    NOT job prospects. NOT employment. You paid for knowledge and you knew this.

    Most people don’t even have the same opportunity.

    • Leslietheshi

      A) Education is not a privilege. It’s a right.
      B) Just because you are more fortunate than others (whether on paper or in reality) does not take away your right to feel dissatisfied and express it.

      • Guest

        Education is a “right” to the privileged – which you obviously are.

      • Danielle

         Just because that’s the way it is now doesn’t mean that’s the way it should be.

  • Dana Leader

    “If you too were raised by the internet and confess to learning more from skimming Wikipedia articles than by sitting in any stale classroom you’ve ever encountered (and are guilty of often doing both simultaneously)”
    I understand what you’re saying, while I don’t agree with it. Even though I had similar experience I’m concerned by the line above. If you weren’t learning anything in your classroom then you should have been able to test out of the class and go onto a subject where you would learn something.

    • i'm a person

      college bureaucracy makes this simple solution really, really unfeasible.  

  • mae

    this is me. all of it. well, at least we’re in it together? 

  • Kaity Wong

    Truly enjoyed this. Still…my head may explode if I read another article about the struggles of Millenials.

  • Isabelle Ferreira

    “Here is a lesson in creative writing. First rule: Do not use semicolons. They are transvestite hermaphrodites representing absolutely nothing. All they do is show you’ve been to college.” 
    kurt vonnegut 

    • Gregory Costa

      I don’t understand your point; semicolons are divine. 

    • NoSexCity

      Or, alternatively, have the attention span necessary to read this:

  • samantha

    ‘the system’ is and always will be fucked up in some ways. we will always have problems to deal with– different ones depending on the times. sure, it sucks that college is so expensive and that finding jobs is harder for college graduates than it has been in the past. but if you are so concerned about getting a job after school, you can’t just try to ‘defy the system’…you have to work within it.become an actuary! become a pharmacologist! these fields involve very low unemployment rates and pretty high salaries. stop viewing your future career as a poet or a philosopher or a musician and plan to do something applicable and sensible. work is “work” for a reason, and, while some are lucky enough to have jobs that they enjoy, most (successful people) are not. if you go the route of majoring in something that interests you while ignoring how much it will cost you, great. but don’t complain when you’re in debt and looking for a job. it sucks, but this is how things work for now.

    I’m a freshman in college and I’m surrounded by perpetual complaints about the education system and how “unfair” it is. when were things ever fair? 

    • James

      I guess that therein lies the problem: “don’t complain when you’re in debt and looking for a job'”? Sure this post is a big fat complaint of the system. We encompass several, million cogs that enable society to function. Why is it that when you pursue a higher education you amass insurmountable debt? Is that necessary to make a society function efficiently? But I think the point of the writer is that many people had the notion that the next step after High School is to go to College because you are guaranteed a good living afterwards doing what you love (not weighed down by false promise and debt). In reality, many people go for hallow aspirations and I think that’s one of the central problems. I think the problem with higher education is that they do not offer classes geared towards potential careers (there is a vast variety that many people are unaware of and only get through networking), rather it is mainly focused on academia and knowledge. 

      • FDS

        The thing is, though, nobody’s dragging a gun to people’s heads and forcing them to sign up for courses that don’t help them. You’re right, a lot of the time their dreams of a better life from university degrees do come from false promises. It’s a tragic story and we should empathize with the people who’ve seen that bubble burst. But ultimately people chose to take one major over another more employable one or over entering a vocational school, and seeing these people turn around and ask for employment seems to me a pretty hollow wish as well.

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