I was having lunch the other day with a student and had to chance to talk about what she was interested in.
Her answers might seem ridiculous, but they’re actually typical of many conversations I have with college students today.
The truth is most students have no idea what they want and when you press them a little, they fall apart.
They use college as a way to absolve themselves of the responsibility of figuring out what matters to them and doing it. Read the dialogue and see what I mean.
Derek: So what are you interested in?
Student: I’m studying journalism.
Derek: Nice! What about journalism excites you?
Student: I really love writing.
Derek: What have you written?
Student: Umm.. well I wrote an essay for my English course this year.
Derek: But you haven’t written anything else?
Student: No not really.
Derek: Nothing at all?
Derek: Why not?
Student: I just don’t feel like I’m good enough yet.
Derek: Well, what would you like to write about?
Student: I have a ton of interests. It’s hard too because I have so many and never enough time to hit them all!
Derek: I bet! What are some things you’d like to write about.
Student: Well, politics and maybe culture. There are just so many.
Derek: Thats not much what else?
Derek: It’s probably just hard to think of them….Anyways, politics is pretty broad. Anything in particular?
Student: I’m not really sure yet. Maybe elections
Derek: Do you post political stuff on Facebook or Twitter?
Student: Not really.
Derek: What are some journalists you follow regularly?
Student: Oh I don’t know, just a bunch of stuff I see online.
Derek: Hmm. Well you should just get started!
Student: How so?
Derek: You can start a blog and just start writing and what not.
Student: But who would read it?
Derek: You have to start somewhere.
Student: I know. I’m just so busy with school.
Derek: Maybe try something else? You really don’t need a degree to be a journalist.
Student: Yeah I would but I’m already over a year in. I feel like I should finish.
Derek: Well you can start writing now always. Any ideas for what you could write about?
Student: Hmm. I’d have to think about that.
The problem is that you don’t just magically know what to do when you graduate. It takes time, trial and error, a bias for action, and a lot of introspection.
College, with its dinosaur credentialing system, its emphasis on grades and conformity, allow for almost none of this.