An optimistic view of a college graduate's future Print
Youth Column
Written by Erick Rommel, Catholic News Service   
Thursday, May. 08, 2014 -- 12:00 AM

For those about to earn a college diploma, the end of an era has arrived.

For most graduates, their years of formal education are over and it's time to move into a bigger world. Recently, however, I've seen increased negative talk about the responsibilities, and what some see as setbacks, after college graduation.

Cynics enjoy telling graduates that no one cares about their degree. That has some truth. I've never had a job where I was asked to provide a transcript or produce a diploma.

That doesn't mean degrees have no value. At the most basic level, a diploma means you're capable of completing a large task. That's important. Not to belittle either, but outside of raising a child, four years of college is probably the longest project most people will ever manage.

Cynics miss the point. They see a diploma as the end of education. It's not. A diploma means the owner should be capable of self-education beyond the limits of a classroom.

Most of the work I do every day, from writing and graphic design to computer programming, is completed by using skills I acquired after college. My degree, however, gave me the foundation necessary to learn new skills throughout my career.

Cynics also point out the debt some take on to obtain a degree. They point out credit card bills and student loans that need to be paid back. They point out the negatives of moving back home if a graduate's first job doesn't pay a salary that can afford them independence. They point out the stress placed on personal relationships if a graduate has to move away from home to find a job.

But let me put some of this into perspective.

Bills? Yes, graduates have them. They have credit cards and loans to pay, but also rent, food, car insurance, and utilities. They're the price of being an adult. That price is worth paying. It takes a while, but we learn to budget our money, what can and can't be spent and on what.

For those moving home after college . . . no one looks forward to parental supervision, especially after the freedom of college, but a return to a childhood home is not detrimental.

As for personal relationships surviving a long-distance move if a graduate has to leave home for work? Those are challenges that must be faced and overcome.

Like the other challenges, you can't face them and overcome them if you only focus on the negative. Get over it. Life can be hard. Life can be painful. But if you focus on overcoming obstacles instead of complaining when they're placed in front of you, you'd realize they can be conquered.

I know because I lived this.

I moved home after college for six months. My first professional job was 2,000 miles from home. I maintained a long-distance relationship and struggled to pay bills on an annual salary of $17,000.

But everything worked out. My relationship with my parents changed, but not in a bad way. The jobs that followed paid better. My romantic relationship survived and eventually led to marriage.

The obstacles faced after graduation are no different from the challenges we face during every phase of our lives. They can be overcome. But you have to be willing to try.

Erick Rommel is head staff writer for The Catholic Spirit in the Diocese of Metuchen, N.J. His column is syndicated through Catholic News Service.


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