College is a vast land of dreams and expectations ““ four years to define an individualistic perspective of life. But soon the temporary setting of college disappears, and we are thrust into the real world, and some of us are thrust back into the homes of our parents.
The economy has claimed yet another fatality, this one being the independence of recent college graduates. The Pew Research Center’s recent analysis of Census Bureau data reports that the number of Americans living in multi-generational households jumped from 46.5 million to 51.4 million between 2007 and 2009. According to the Census Bureau, “a multi-generational household is one that contains three or more parent-child generations.” The age bracket of 25-34 saw the most dramatic increase amongst age groups living in multi-generational households.
We head to college with the dream of independence, many of us never having the slightest inkling of moving back to live with our parents. Yet what we fail to understand is that graduating from college does not always ensure an autonomous life. In order to grab independence and hold on it, we must start preparing from day one at university, even if it means sacrificing fun aspects of our college experience to plan for the future.
Moving back in with one’s parents is not always desirable, but it does not necessarily constitute dependence.
Instead of living on campus during college, living at home will save students a considerable amount of money, while distancing them from the distracting nightlife college can entail.
Nearly 30 percent of UCLA students drive to school, illustrating that commuting is a viable option. Without the added expenses of living on campus, student debt will be minimized, making financial independence more feasible, and the pressure to find a high-paying job will not be as omnipresent. Thus, students looking to gain independence during college can maintain that autonomy after graduation by commuting.
For many, the main goal after college is to secure a well-paying job and make the temporary independence found in college permanent. Recently, only certain majors have consistently been ranked as the top-paying degrees. Of the top 20 in 2011, 13 are engineering concentrations and the others are heavily math-based. Of the 20 worst-paying college degrees in 2010, none of them require an intensive mastery of mathematics.
However, this isn’t the only path to success. Students must accept the gravity of their future job outlook and heavily research their future career in order to be successful.
As easy as it may be to pick a major, such as chemical engineering, that can give you a steady but monotonous career for 50 years, there is a tougher but more fulfilling path to independence. Innovation and creativity can spark a youth revolution; too many of us are content with following the same set path and working on that path until retirement. We should instead be more willing to pursue creative paths.
A high-paying college degree, no matter how practical it may be in the real world, can never be a substitute for the ideas that Bill Gates, Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg innovated. None of these men had a college degree, but they were able to gain their autonomy with ingenuity, not a high-paying degree.
This August, New York Law School was met with a lawsuit by three students who claimed the law school misrepresented statistics about gaining employment after graduation. The school explicitly states on its website that 89 percent of graduates find employment and lists expected salaries. These students believed that earning a J.D. would automatically qualify them for certain jobs and salaries ““ they took the statistics at face value without researching them, only to realize it was far more difficult to attain a job with a law degree than advertised.
Similarly, the UCLA School of Law boasts that 93.1 percent of graduates attain employment within nine months of graduation. But, if examined closely, the compiled information regarding expected salaries was only based off of a portion of reports from the class of 2010.
With even the most prestigious of careers now facing unemployment, students can no longer avoid the obvious. They must sacrifice their college enjoyment in order to maintain a comfortable standard of living upon graduation.
The optimist in me resents this theory of having to sacrifice the college experience, but the cynic in me knows it is best. Our college years must be one big, meticulously calculated and planned project.
To prevent returning home after graduation and to secure the independence we treasure so dearly in college, We should not allow ourselves to fall into the same path so many students have chosen before us; our passions, no matter what any statistic says, should not be abandoned.