LePage: Which to choose: Education or experience?

The goal of a college education probably differs by individual student. However it doesn't seem too much to assume that most attend college to increase their academic knowledge base and to acquire to specialized skills within a major while preparing themselves for the careers they wish to pursue after graduation.

As the second semester of the year kicks off, members of the class of 2007 (unfortunately not including me) are probably beginning, if they haven't already, to wonder about respective futures. What does a college education teach you that is of unquestionable value? This question has been running through my head as I watch many Geneseo students prepare to enter the adult world that commences after graduation.

In an obvious sense, there are two main choices to pick from. Attend a graduate school with a program of your career interest at its forefront, or skip the extra schooling and get right out there into the workforce, building up your hands-on experience rather than classroom knowledge.

But in reality, there are other considerations. Travel, the Peace Corps, or simply taking a couple of years off to just earn money before applying to graduate school are other options to contemplate. Whatever you may choose, there are sacrifices to be made. In our society, the longer the list of education received the better. More education usually means some sort of fancy title like M.D. or Ph.D. that can be placed after our names on certificates, name plates, and office door labels.

Is education, however, that much more valuable than real life, hands-on experience? This is a question I am always wondering about, whether I'm watching Donald Trump's The Apprentice, or working on my resume, trying to fill it up with my experience so that whoever is perusing it may overlook my less than impressive GPA and test scores.

There is no doubt that a balance of both education and experience are important, but that simple equation might not be enough to help someone decide what to do after graduating from college. Is a bachelor's degree from an accredited university enough to work your way up in the employment ladder of better pay, health benefits, and respected reputation? Of course, the answer for all of the questions posed in this column is "it depends."

There are several factors that should be considered when trying to decide what do to after graduation from Geneseo. What kind of finances do you have? Do you have money saved up for graduate school? Did you enjoy attending your classes at Geneseo? Did you work hard and receive good grades? Do you already have experience in your field with internships and part-time work? What did those experiences mean to you? Of course, throwing out a bunch of open-ended questions to answer might not be too effective in solving the dilemma of what to do after graduation, but at least it's a start.

It almost seems too simple, but the more you know yourself and the more you base your decision on what would make you happy rather than what your parents, professors or society expects of you, the more true of a decision you will make and ultimately, the more successful you will be.