When exploring the wide breadth of courses, majors, and career paths one can pursue in college, it is not uncommon for students to change their majors two, three or even over four times at Vanderbilt. Ask a Vanderbilt upperclassmen what they want to pursue after college and often you’ll be met with a simultaneous expression of exasperation and a laughter: “I’ll figure it out eventually.” Based on these experiences, one would presume that finding a specific passion is something every college student goes through. However, many students – because of financial or cultural reasons – are simply left out of this experience.
Pragmatically speaking, many students need a stable, moderately paying job after graduation when taking into account the financial setback experienced from attending Vanderbilt. Students are simply blocked out of career paths which lack this security whether it be due to their own finances, a need to provide for families or other financial reasons. Additionally, this is often compounded with familial expectations to pursue ‘well respected’ career paths which usually surround paths in the STEM, legal or business fields. From a societal standpoint, more collectivist cultures do not express the sentiment that one should always follow a career that they love (e.g. South or East Asia).
While there are undoubtedly many students who are able to overcome these challenges to pursue interests that may be riskier or less lucrative, too many students are still deprived of the experience of casting a wide net across the academic disciplines offered to students. As most students are financially dependent upon their parents, they are not the sole decision makers in their educational choices. Compounded with the realities of post graduation plans, the merits of a liberal arts education are not as universally experienced as we would like to believe.
Naveen Krishnan is a sophomore in the College of Arts and Sciences. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.