Choices, choices: what do today's college graduates see as more attractive, a lucrative job on Wall Street or the chance to serve those less fortunate? Check out this New York Times article:
Big Paycheck or Service? Students Are Put to Test
A prominent education professor at Harvard has begun leading “reflection” seminars at three highly selective colleges, which he hopes will push undergraduates to think more deeply about the connection between their educations and aspirations.
The professor, Howard Gardner, hopes the seminars will encourage more students to consider public service and other careers beyond the consulting and financial jobs that he says are almost the automatic next step for so many graduates of top colleges.
“Is this what a Harvard education is for?” asked Professor Gardner, who is teaching the seminars at Harvard, Amherst and Colby with colleagues. “Are Ivy League schools simply becoming selecting mechanisms for Wall Street?”
Although others have expressed similar concerns in recent years, his views have gained support on the Harvard campus with students, faculty and even the new president, Drew Gilpin Faust, who made the topic the cornerstone of her address to seniors during commencement week. Dr. Faust noted that in the past year, whenever she has met with students, their first question has always been the same: “Why are so many of us going to Wall Street?”
I graduated from an Ivy League school and I know that a large percentage of my classmates are now working at these Wall Street jobs, or in corporate law firms or consulting companies. But most of the people I kept in touch with or hear about are working in the non-profit sector, or government, or journalism or teaching or the arts. I can't think of a single person who didn't burn out on that fast track big money lifestyle really fast.
It's been almost 20 years since I graduated, and I wonder if things have changed at my school. From what you hear, today's college students are a socially conscious bunch. You'd think college students of my age would have been more influenced by the "greed is good" 80's, and I know many were: one guy I met freshman year quite bluntly told me that his goal was to work on Wall Street and make a ton of money, no ifs, ands, or buts about it. But I guess I just didn't stay friends with him and his ilk. And perhaps what has changed in the 20 years since is that people think they need even higher levels of wealth just to stay ahead. And as the article points out, kids who go to Ivy League schools are by nature (and necessity) very competitive. The prestige of lower-paying jobs is not as evident: and when you're done competing in the classroom or with the other artistic or athletic talents that count in college, money is the obvious prize that's left to win.