College degrees are analogous to fashion trends. The ones that manage to attain critical mass sell like hot cakes, albiet periodically. The 80s were for med schools, the 90s saw students flock to engineering, the early 2000s started the fad of computer wizards, the last 4-5 years have generated an inordinate number of bankers, and the next few, I predict, will see the masses revert back to the doctors and engineers. In fact, fancy foreign banking experience, which once scored points for eligible bachelors (particularly Indian, since the arranged marriage concept is almost alien to other nationalities), has become quite the tabboo this season.
During my own time in college, I have seen many a talent wasted in the race for the most popular college degree. Off beat degrees, it seems, are still only for the daredevils, the rich & hence financially secure, and those who can’t make the academic cutoff of mainstream courses. Of course, there are those who discover only midway through college that they are not cut out for the rat race. However, in order to avoid cognitive dissonance after 4 years of (mindless) slogging, many continue to embark on the path that ignorance chose for them, getting sucked further into the conventional belief that off beat (non med, non engineering, non finance) talent is purely meant for hobbies.
It’s hard to foresee the future of a system that facilitates the decay of tremendous talent in the name of a ‘respectable’ profession. I earlier wrote a post contemplating if college education is overrated. Now, I think the mass-following of mainstream degrees is more to blame. Perhaps, post high-school, students need more time to discover real talent through exposure to off-beat fields. Perhaps, parents need to be more receptive and appreciative of their children’s abilities in alternate areas. Perhaps, we need to re-evaluate our system and re-examine whether it is the most efficient way of cultivating the generation of tomorrow.
If you’re not sure about the kind of off-beat education I’ve been harping here about, this is a start.
“Of course there’s a lot of knowledge in universities: the freshmen bring a little in; the seniors don’t take much away, so knowledge sort of accumulates….” – Anonymous