College is beneficial socially, economically, intellectually and culturally. However, many college students feel like their hard work and thousands of dollars of debt will merely amount to a useless piece of paper. This is because seeing the direct connection between that piece of paper and a career is difficult.
However, that piece of paper is only as valuable as the opportunities and resources that accompany it.
Degrees do not speak for themselves. Students must give weight to degrees for the credentials to be applicable. Showing up to class and averaging a 2.0 GPA is not enough for that four-year investment to be worthwhile, economically (probably) or skillfully. To make degrees more attractive, students must use the skills and knowledge that they are taught in class to go beyond just their graduation duties. This sounds trite, but doing “extra” is overlooked because of how demanding basic student duties are. However, becoming involved in clubs, organizations and positions is crucial for crafting a well-rounded degree because of the opportunities gained by networking with peers and applying classroom knowledge to other facets of life. The people who you come to know by going beyond the bare minimum will be the people to receive job opportunities in the future. The extra skills that you choose to hone outside of class will be the skills that you can execute automatically for the rest of your life.
I do extra by writing for The Rocket. As an undergraduate, I also did extra by working as a tour guide of history at the Old Stone House. I chose to do both because they allowed (and still allow) me to apply classroom skills to new contexts. I mention these experiences almost every time that I have an interview or speak to professionals in my field, and doing so allows the people with whom I am talking to better understand my background and personality. These two positions, furthermore, forced me to hone skills that I had only worked on in the classroom, but had not done extensively or publicly: public speaking, communicating to multiple audiences, articulating thoughts cogently, thinking spontaneously, teaching, preparing logistics for large-scale events, etc. I bettered myself by doing more than I needed to.
College is about the resources and skills provided over the span of four years that enable students to apply their degree more than the degree itself. There are a variety of scholarships, positions, projects, grants and awards that can be worked toward at any moment in a college student’s career — and each resource is an opportunity to differentiate a student from his or her peers. Though not requirements, these “extras” are indicators of how dedicated a student is to his or her field — and are very important for the longevity of a degree.
If a college degree was a book, the degree should serve as a book cover — not the entire story. It is the student’s duty to make his or her degree a glimpse of an important, complicated, and dutiful process. Maintaining the status quo and doing the bare minimum to graduate is not going to lead to a quality story — only exploiting and pursuing surrounding resources will do that.