Pre-med. Pre-vet. Pre-dent. Pre-law. Pre, pre, pre!!! After a full year on Cornell’s campus, it became clear to me just how career-focused the student body really is. It’s now that time of year again in which I pass hundreds of students walking in their suits and full business attire, despite the fact that it’s ninety degrees outside. Here at Cornell, career fairs will always take precedence over practicality. So what’s the craze all about? How do these nineteen-year-olds already know what they want to do with the rest of their lives? Here’s a shout-out to the rest of us who don’t have a clue.
Unlike other universities, our schools and programs are oddly specific. Cornell’s only two undergraduate colleges that have “Undeclared Major” options when you apply are Arts and CALS, and the CALS option was only added this year! How many other universities offer the ILR major? Or have hotel schools? Or an entire college for art, architecture, and urban planning? The particular schools cause students to arrive on campus with a direction, which only further perpetuates the pre-professional culture. But that does not mean there’s anything wrong with being undecided.
The pressure to join business frats, along with other pre-professional clubs, is nuts. The suits, the meetings, the waiting for emails – it’s all-consuming. And it starts as early as the fall of freshman year! I believe that the pressure largely comes from people following the masses. If you hear that some of your friends are grabbing their blazers and briefcases and heading out to an info session, odds are that you’ll join them. If everybody else is talking about their summer jobs, you’re likely to. Peer pressure is just how we work.
It’s really hard for those of us who aren’t sure what we want to do. The people who are confidently pre-professional can be super intimidating. Lunch conversation is always centered on summer internships, your next interview, or the bullet points on your resume. Stop; we don’t want to listen to this. While considering your future is important, it can detract from the importance of learning. Going to class, seeing what interests you, being intellectually stimulated – a lot of these great academic opportunities are often overshadowed by all of the networking.
So here’s my business pitch for everyone – pun intended – let’s chill out.