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Freshmen see college as necessary to riches, study suggests

Boston University students and professors agree that mastering a subject is more important than a high GPA. PHOTO ILLUSTRATION BY MADELEINE ATKINSON/DAILY FREE PRESS STAFF
Boston University students and professors agree that mastering a subject is more important than a high GPA. PHOTO ILLUSTRATION BY MADELEINE ATKINSON/DAILY FREE PRESS STAFF

Despite the findings of a recent study, several Boston University students and professors said it is more important to find fulfillment and experience at college than to be hired in a high-paying job.

“Taking a long-range view will be better in the long run, but given the difficult job market today, it’s reasonable for students to focus more on finding a job rather than finding the best possible jobs,” said Randall Ellis, an economics professor. “It’s understandable why they’re so focused on trying to get a reasonable, paying job.”

A study released Thursday by Cooperative Institutional Research Program found the primary goal of college freshmen, more so than previous years, is to land a highly paying job to become wealthy.

Over 190,000 fall 2012 first-year students were surveyed and 88 percent said earning a well-paying job is a very important reason to go to college. Almost 75 percent surveyed said college was necessary to making large sums of money.

Though the prospect of financial stability is a factor in looking for a job, BU students often look for a career they know they will enjoy, Ellis said.

“[Wealth] is a good goal to aim for, but not all of them will be able to find jobs,” Ellis said. “Many will choose jobs that don’t pay as much because of passion or other opportunities including further graduate education and internships.

Students more frequently intern and work to help causes during school and after graduation, Ellis said.

“Graduates are taking lower paying jobs now than five years ago,” Ellis said. “Many students are becoming teachers for Teach for America, or doing work at nonprofits and they’re becoming interns.”

Economics professor Francesco Decarolis said his students plan to become wealthy, but their priorities are mastering material and finding a fitting job.

“[My students] know they must reconcile a high-paying job with something important and interesting for them,” Decarolis said. “It isn’t enough to get a high GPA and a degree, it’s how you get the GPA and which courses you take.”

Decarolis said the results of the survey are not surprising because wealth has always been a goal of college students.

“If the wage is a summary measure of success and how interesting and stimulating the job is, often the higher paying jobs will prove they are the most challenging, but engaging,” he said. “Committing to succeed in this market is a good way to open many doors in life.”

Peri Tur, a College of Arts and Sciences freshman, said she views college more as a career necessity than a key to a well-paying job.

“I decided to apply to college because, obviously, you can’t do anything in this world without a college degree,” Tur said. “Almost everyone now has at least a bachelor’s degree and it will be hard to get a job without one.”

Tur said she must stay competitive to be hired after school, but first will take time off for the Peace Corps.

“A large paycheck is not that important to me,” Tur said. “At some point it has to matter because it has to be just large enough to maintain a living, but it doesn’t have to be in excess.”

CAS freshman Jake Barkin said he disagrees with the findings of the study because making money is not his goal in life.

“People are not as much looking for high paying jobs, but rather looking for something that interests them,” Barkin said.

Chris Topheryang, a School of Management sophomore, said students strive to earn a high-paying job, but the most important part of the job search is finding something they enjoy and can do for the rest of their lives.

“I am going to college to get a higher education and hopefully this education will help me land a good, high-paying, successful job,” Topheryang said. “The job just needs to be something I am happy with and can support my lifestyle.”

Topheryang said most students apply to college with aspirations to be competitive in the workforce.

“In terms of my future work experience, I’d definitely put it before money,” Topheryang said. “You can also get that kind of experience networking at college.”

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