Don't Measure Success by a Paycheck

It’s so easy to get sucked into the what-will-I-be-when-I-grow-up? sturm und drang of college. We did. And we definitely don’t want to undercut the post-graduation importance of being able to support yourself and whomever you claim as tax dependents. But it’s also essential to build in quality of life. Money buys a lot of things, but it will never buy happiness. Remember Scrooge? At the end of the day, you don’t want to have nothing to cuddle with or take joy in except money.

Cynthia Huggins, the president of University of Maine at Machias recently shared some thoughts on the dangers of building a life around a paycheck on HuffPo.

Some graduates of the University of Maine at Machias head straight for grad school, where they are generally quite successful and end up with decent paying jobs in their chosen fields of study…Others are able to take their UMM credentials and immediately find employment directly or indirectly related to the subject in which they majored in college. And that’s basically how it should work most of the time — pick a major, earn a degree, land a job in said field.

But I get nervous when people start suggesting that we should no longer offer certain majors since graduates from those programs “obviously” won’t be able to earn a comfortable living or even — saints preserve us — get a job in that specific field. I have a bachelor’s degree in music because I really like music. But from age 22 to 34, I worked at a slightly better than minimum wage job that simply required me to have a college degree — any college degree — and that was perfect for me at that time. Even worse, I then went back to school for a doctorate in English because I enjoy reading long novels. And go figure, I’m now doing okay as a college president.

I sincerely believe that a college education should also impress on students the importance — the absolute necessity — of a meaningful life in which they get to define success for themselves. Learn to play the clarinet. Read a Brontë novel. Coach a basketball team. Or just spend an hour walking a dog.

The whole thing is worth a read, and we encourage you to click on the link above.