While many freshmen nationally attend college for practical purposes, it may not be the case for Penn students.
The 2012 Freshman Survey, released annually by the Cooperative Institutional Research Program at the University of California, Los Angeles, polled 192,912 college freshmen across the country attending 283 four-year colleges and universities.
Among the survey’s results was the overwhelming finding that today’s college freshmen are increasingly concerned with the career-related benefits of attending college.
According to the report, 74.6 percent of students surveyed said the ability to “make more money” was an important reason to go to college — an all-time high — compared to 71.7 percent in 2011.
Despite these statistics, Dean of Admissions Eric Furda said he doesn’t think students’ desires to make more money “equates to greed.”
“I think now when people say they want to make more money, it’s really about, ‘What does my future hold?’” Furda said.
Additionally, another all-time high of 88 percent of students said that the ability to get a better job was an important reason to go to college.
Wharton freshman Kevin Ugarte agrees with that statement. “It’s a very competitive environment for jobs right now, and you can only stay on top if you actually go to college,” Ugarte said.
College freshman Pearl Li thinks that while financial and practical concerns are worth taking into consideration when it comes to college, at Penn, students can have “the luxury of not caring.”
“I think … it’s easier to be an English or art history major at Penn than it is anywhere else,” Li said.
Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences Dennis DeTurck echoed Furda’s sentimentsand also said that “a place like Penn provides … a certain amount of confidence that things are going to work out.”
According to DeTurck, Penn students may be more concerned with questions like, “What kind of job am I going to have precisely?” and bigger philosophical life questions like “How do I want to make a difference in the world?”
President of the Undergraduate Assembly and College junior Dan Bernick also believes Penn students have a bright future despite economic uncertainties.
“One of the great things about Penn is that … we have a lot of financial aid,” Bernick said. “[This makes] sure that students are able to explore their interests and focus more on following their passions.”
“Our students know that they’re going to have opportunities to be successful when they graduate from Penn,” Bernick continued. “And for our students, I think it’s more about doing well by doing good. It’s not just about money.”
Regarding the new pre-professional focus that some freshman may have, Furda believes that Penn students have a good balance between practical and intellectual concerns.
“I think it rubs both ways for Penn,” he said. “We want students to pursue knowledge for the sake of pursuing knowledge, but we also know that the study of liberal arts and sciences can not only coexist with pre-professionalism — they can also complement each other a great deal.”
Meanwhile, DeTurck warns students not to discount the value of a liberal arts education. “The point of a place like Penn is that we’re at the cutting edge of so many things,” he said. For example, “engineers [here] don’t study to be a specific kind of engineer working on a specific technology that’s going to be out of date in five years.”
As to what these findings mean for the study of liberal arts, Bernick thinks it’s difficult to tell.
“I think students are approaching school differently now than in the past,” Bernick said. “I don’t think it’s at the expense of a liberal arts education.”
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