South Dakota State University's Independent Student-Run Newspaper Since 1885

The Collegian

South Dakota State University's Independent Student-Run Newspaper Since 1885

The Collegian

South Dakota State University's Independent Student-Run Newspaper Since 1885

The Collegian

Think about your degree early in college career


What are you going to do with your degree?

It is a question you hear from your friends, classmates and one that I have been asked at family gatherings. Sometimes it is meant as a joke, other times they are voicing a very real concern.

For some, answering it is easy — a degree is simply a stepping stone to their ideal future, and each class they take is directly wired toward that future, each assignment honing a skill or trade that they will use for the rest of their lives.

The rest of us, sitting in class, or struggling through a paper on something we intend on forgetting about, are left wondering. I’m a good example, not because I write meaningless papers, but because of my studies. I’m a political science and English major. These kinds of degrees scare parents because they are just so vague and have no obvious high-earning career paths stemming from them.

That lack of specificity did not scare me at first. It should have. Not because I didn’t plan on pursuing a degree with high-earning potential — even now I don’t personally plan on making ridiculous amounts of money after college. I should have been scared because I felt that I was in college to establish my identity, and make memories. To be completely frank, that isn’t why you should be here.

Those things can happen along the road, but memories and self-actualization should not cost you tens of thousands of dollars. College means something different to everyone, but at its core, it is the enabling of opportunity. 

If you had asked me what I had wanted to do when I came here as a freshman, I would have given you an approximation of success rather than an actual professional field.

Part of the problem was that I gave into the assumption that because I did well in school that just meant I would be an appealing candidate for good jobs — that is a dangerous thing to believe.

My letter grades would never magically be mailed to my future dream job, and the cumulative GPA of my classes would never directly affect my salary.

There is a major difference between being good at school, and setting yourself up for success after graduation. I can guarantee you that most people with four-year degrees working successful jobs were not all slackers that only turned in assignments when they felt like it. The tedium and the stress of our studies establishes a work ethic that employers generally want.

However, what matters as much as your grades are the things that happen in between the exams and the homework assignments. For instance, have you established visibility to possible future employers? Was there a demonstration of effort and commitment evident in your time spent in college? Did you ever do anything other than your required studies?

These questions matter, and I urge you to do your best to answer them by the time you’re seniors.

Benjamin Hummel is an English major at SDSU and can be reached at [email protected].

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