Each May, thousands of college students across the nation leave their alma maters in search of the next phase of their life. Each of those fresh graduates has a choice to make: What to do now?
On this editorial page, we present three choices: go to graduate school, get married, or get a job. Given that I like being financially solvent, I plan on getting a job - or doing the best I can - when I leave UB.
For those not fortunate enough to have rich families - or who did not qualify for enough financial aid to make college a free ride - the accumulated debt of the B.A. or B.S. can be heavy. Tuition at SUNY schools (for the past four years, anyway) was $3,400; add to that room and board at $6,512 and fees at $1,390 a year, multiply by the standard college duration, and it costs a whopping $45,208 to become a college graduate.
That's a lot of money. Granted, not going to graduate school means that I'll have to pay that off much sooner, but it's also less to pay off than it would be if I were to continue. Not all students will be concerned about the amount or with paying off the loans immediately, of course; one popular argument points out that the market isn't exactly booming with job opportunities and that graduate schools will not only allow time for improvement, but the possibility of a higher salary to boot.
That, however, strikes me as much like gambling your house on a game of roulette - close your eyes and hope that your incredibly expensive investment won't leave you further in debt than when you started.
The first job I get likely won't be the job I stick with for the rest of my life, and perhaps it won't be a glamorous one, but it will pay the bills and give me a stepping stone to a higher-paying job. Motivation and intelligence go farther than a Master's degree when it comes to moving up and increasing one's economic standing; take Bill Gates, for example, one of the world's richest men, and a Harvard drop-out.
I can go to graduate school anytime. The drawback, of course, is that I may not be as free to drop everything and throw myself whole-heartedly into my studies, but the benefit would be that in 10 or 20 years I will (hopefully) be more financially secure than I am now.
I can get married anytime. I know high schoolers that are engaged; I know students in my classes now who are engaged; I know middle-aged people who are engaged.
Perhaps my biggest reason for getting job is more emotional than rational. I'm tired of preparing for a life; I'm ready to leave school and actually live. Paying bills, having a job, not having a fast-food place 20 feet from my office - it will different and maybe tough, but it will be my life. And if I don't like it in 10 years, I can always go back to school.