The graduation season is upon us! For the past month, news outlets have heralded the victors of the college admissions tournament, covering the acceptance decisions of the First Daughter to the triumphant few who managed a full sweep of America's elite universities. While some articles did not try to discount these tales of hard-earned success, other authors in the past have decried the myopic lens on America's elite education where the focus should have been instead on true learning (pick up the must-read by William Deresiewicz: Excellent Sheep: The Miseducation of the American Elite and the Way to a Meaningful Life). Still others have mourned that college mania is a crisis for the 3%.
If you are reading between the lines, what we see is a country not so much obsessed with college in and of itself, but the pursuit of opportunity. Do we even have control over our dreams anymore? Isn't this what some of the presidential candidates are emphasizing in their own ways?
So apart from the "Costco-essay girl" and the college admissions champions, where do the rest of us fall? Are our dreams determined by the colleges we set our hopes on? No. There is not a dearth of dreams, but a perceived lack of self-efficacy in our ability to achieve them.
At this time of year, this sentiment is felt no more acutely by any other group than by college graduates. It is a malaise that can continue well beyond the cap and gown ceremony. While some graduates fret that the "best years" of their lives are already behind them, others are apprehensive about the road ahead. "What path should I choose?" "Does this crippling amount of debt mean I'll have to be a slave to the corporation?" Basically, "Can I live on my own terms?" The answer to the last question is "Yes!" As a source of inspiration, let's look to the young graduate who arranged 500 meetings before realizing his endeavor to become the "youngest sole managing partner of a venture fund ever."
In the past weeks, some of my friends who will soon be newly-minted graduates have asked me about the "life after" and the "real world." There is a life after, but it falls on you to make it a life of fulfillment. As someone who not too long ago walked in their shoes, this is my response to new graduates and all dreamers alike, regardless of their education.
Artwork by Carolyn Kao.