the pre-professional push

November 4, 2006

It happens so soon: far too soon, I should think. The “it”, of course, is the inevitable shift in focus away from education for its own sake and towards, horror of horrors, the job. The job. The one in which you will distinguish yourself, find personal satisfaction, and (oh yes) bring home a nice paycheck each month. That thing that you, your parents, or perhaps someone else are spending many thousands of dollars for you to get, and the one that you will bring up in the course of countless dinner party conversations, assuming, of course, that it is something worth bringing up. Getting there is the trick. I wrote not long ago about the unfortunate power of grades over nearly every aspect of a college education. The corollary to those worries is the realization that grades are not an end in themselves but a means to something else, namely “the job.”

But for those who lack the questionable drive to move to New York and slave away for one of the financial services companies there, first comes intermediate step of graduate school. Or law school, business school, medical school, or any of the countless other “schools.” College thus becomes about the dreaded pastime of “resume building,” whether through overcommitment to dozens (hundreds?) of clubs and organizations or through time-sucking marathon study sessions in the library for each and every exam to produce, at the end of four years, a transcript littered with mind-bogglingly high marks. Now doesn’t that sound like fun?

Rhetorical questions aside, these aforementioned issues are of great concern to me in particular as I aspire, however gingerly and fearfully, towards a PhD program of some repute in some yet-to-be-determined subject area. Grades shouldn’t matter, I have been told and have decided, but the fact that they do behooves me to value them to some degree, however undeserving they are of such consideration, and even change things when they aren’t going (as) well. At the same time, the distressing rapidity of time’s passage–four years is far too short a time for all there is to do and be done–urges me to find ever-better uses for it. It will all work out in the end, I believe. The trick, as I said, is getting there.

–D. S. W.


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