For those of you considering higher ed, or advising students who are, you're probably aware of the recent debate over whether the high costs of a college education are worth it, and if you do go to college, for what is that time best used? Self-exploration? Career preparation? One or both? My opinion is that it should be both - they do not need to be mutually exclusive.
In a recent NYT interview, the new president of Harvard University, Dr. Drew Gilpin Faust, took issue with the federal government's emphasis on higher education's training a globally competitive workforce. She paraphrased W. E. B. DuBois: “Education is not to make men carpenters so much as to make carpenters men.” Dr. Faust was reacting to a September 2006 federal Commission's recommendation that college use more standardized testing (a la No Child Left Behind) to raise student standards. Here's another critique of that report.
I think both Dr. Faust and Margaret Spelling's Commission on Higher Education raise good points. Having gone to an expensive private university myself and having witnessed a few fellow students wasting 4-5 years "finding themselves" through hours of video games and partying, there is some merit to the Commission's position that college should be a training ground to enter a competitive workforce and accordingly tough. Our website addresses the reality of the Free Agent workforce.
But many students, some of whom use The Career Key test, need some time to learn about themselves and to explore different majors and different career paths. And that takes freedom and time to take different classes, which some science majors like pre-Med and engineering may limit. Writing skills, for example, may be neglected in some science focused curricula. So exploration outside one's chosen field would be wise.
I think students should take advantage of the freedom to explore, while keeping in mind the end game. After graduation, you need a job, preferably one that you enjoy or at least is a step on a ladder in a career that matches your personality. Or you need to enter a graduate school that is a prerequisite to the same path. The reality of our global economy is that the job market for good, high paying jobs is competitive. You might as well choose a satisfying career at the beginning.