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2012 December 4

What good is college?


Students on a Yale College quad

A defining characteristic of my generation (“Generation X”)—possibly the defining characteristic—is that we grew up during the transition to personal computing. (Which, for convenience, I’ll identify as occurring between 1975 and 1995.) I remember seeing my first computer when Patrick Henry Elementary got two TRS-80s. We learned to write simple programs in BASIC that were saved on audiocassette tapes since the computers had no storage themselves.

Unsurprisingly, we fell in love with these shiny new toys. Yet for all they can do, computers require enormous amounts of maintenance and specialized knowledge to operate. So like black holes, they have pulled many of my cohort into their orbits, never to return. The people I know who graduated high school in the late 1980s may have earned college degrees across a variety of disciplines, but it seems like all of us have abandoned those callings.

I have a combined degree in Theater Studies/Philosophy, but my actual job trajectory has been Editing→Graphic Design→Website Management. My friends majored in English, International Studies, Biochemistry, Archaeology; now they are programmers and IT support specialists.

So I’m curious: If you were born after 1965, are you working in a field directly related to your college major?