Do College Students Live in a Bubble?


It’s an ongoing discussion; every generation chatters on about whether the youth will survive as times inevitably get tough. Will we be able to save a planet threatened by global warming? Can we fix the mess of an economy created by previous generations? And also, does college create a happy bubble of disillusionment, setting us up for failure in the “real world?” 

I cannot give a satisfactory yes or no. As with most great debates, it’s a little bit of both. But, I can tell you the future isn’t completely dismal.

Concern about the future is rampant, both in students and adults. Some believe the current generation is spoiled by the “bubble” they live in at college and will be unable to cope with the world they enter after graduation. But, whether this belief has merit is a more important matter.

The Association of American Colleges and Universities conducted a large survey involving recent graduates and employers to find out what colleges should be doing to prepare students for the world they will soon be entering. The proposals include an increased emphasis on integrative learning, intellectual and practical skills, personal and social responsibility, and knowledge of different cultures. Currently, they believe, colleges aren’t doing enough to prepare students.

In other words, people think students live in the safety net of college and do not realize what lies ahead. For example, students leave college ready to take more classes instead of take a job. Just as elementary school readies students for middle school, college readies students for grad school. Additionally, the so-called “helicopter” parent has become more abundant, leaving students helpless and ignorant of life without guardians. Also among the culprits for producing unprepared students are increased technological dependence and a complex adult world that is unappealing to young people’s carefree lifestyle.

However, there is reason to believe that this generation’s youth isn’t totally helpless. The National Association of Colleges and Employers found that paid summer internships are supposed to rise 8.5 percent this summer. Internships have become the norm for college age kids — and they’ve become a necessity. As the job market becomes more competitive, employers have begun to look for resumes including internships. In 2009, only 14 percent of senior college students without internships had jobs waiting for them after graduation. While this fact highlights the inopportune world that awaits graduates, it shows that students recognize the current economic problems and are becoming more willing to test the waters in real-work situations.

Internships aren’t the only places for students to dabble in the real world. It is also common for students to work part-time jobs. The American Association of University Professors (AAUP) released an article about student workers. In 2010, a researcher noted that students found work-study incomes to be insufficient, or they simply didn’t receive work-study at all. Thus, students work off-campus for paying jobs. With about 50 percent of students working while being enrolled as full-time students, the workforce is being introduced to youth that already know how to juggle various activities at once.

And finally, there is evidence to show that college students have begun studying more “valuable” majors than in the past. According to collegeboard, the majors showing the greatest increases in popularity from the late 1960s till today are business, biological science, and health professional. Those with the greatest loss in popularity include English and Liberal Arts. This generation is abandoning the studies that leave you with no career path for more useful majors that create a clear course of action.

So yes, one can argue that college students today live in a bubble with their over-involved parents and technological access that leaves them unable to communicate with people one-on-one. Yet, our generation still manages to balance work and play, as many, if not most, college students take on a part-time job or internship as well as a full-time education. And, many have taken notice that majors matter. Students are beginning to realize what will land them a job in this economy and are taking advantage. College students may live slightly separated from the “real world,” but that doesn’t mean they are completely unqualified to make the adjustment after graduation.

Join the debate: Is college too much of a bubble? Does it adequately prepare students for the "real world"?

Photo Credit: SMBCollege