When I was six, I told my mother, "I want to be a firefighter."
When I was eight, I told my mother, "I want to be a teacher."
When I was twelve, I told my mother, "I want to be an astronaut."
Growing up, I wanted to be anything I saw – doctor, lawyer, scientist. As a small child, I believed careers were labels. I believed that these labels made a doctor different from a teacher, a teacher different from a scientist, and a scientist different from a firefighter. A scientist did not have the same skill set as a teacher. A teacher did not have the same skill set as a firefighter.
"I realized that the skills needed to become a teacher, doctor, or lawyer were sometimes interchangeable."
- Alexis P.
As I decided to apply to liberal arts colleges in the fall of my senior year, my childish classifications began to unfold. I realized that the skills needed to become a teacher, doctor, or lawyer were sometimes interchangeable. And more so, I realized that the true knowledge gained from a college education is not a focus on one career, but the ability to use whatever you learn in college for what you are working on. Skills like communication, teamwork, problem solving, and critical thinking jumped out at me. These were not skills of solely a scientist or an astronaut – they were skills of all professionals. I began to realize that I wanted skills that I could use anywhere and anytime.
One such skill that I will learn in college is the ability to think critically. Since I am attending a small liberal arts college, many of my classes are small, and seminars or class discussions are common. I know that I will hear different perspectives from diverse individuals every day, expanding my worldview. If I am in a discussion, seminar, or debate, I know that I will have the skills to ask the right questions and to know which questions are right to ask. While I am interested in being a chemist, learning to critically think can serve me just as well in the humanities. Critical thinking is not grounded in being a teacher or a firefighter but is grounded in your ability to think – no matter the job. I would be able to ask insightful questions in chemistry, but this would not prevent me from poking holes into someone’s thoughts in a history class either. I intend to use critical thinking no matter my career because it is not about memorized knowledge; it’s just about thinking. Critical thinking will allow me to make the best decisions – no matter my field.
"No matter what field I end up working in, I know that I will use the skills and knowledge that I gain in college."
- Alexis P.
Another skill that I will learn in college is writing. While I will do a lot of writing in my general education classes, such as English or history, I know that being able to write well will serve me well across all fields. Learning to write well will teach me how to communicate my ideas effectively over a sheet of paper, but in a professional manner. Learning to write well will teach me how to organize my ideas, what words are best for my audience, how to interpret information, what sources for information I need to use, and how to limit the topic to avoid unnecessary information. While I may learn to write well in an English class for a paper on Shakespeare, this will also teach me how to write well for a scientific journal as a scientist or an op-ed in a newspaper as a journalist.
One last skill that I will need no matter which field I end up in is research. While research is often encouraged in science class, research is also needed to create an exhibit as a historian in a museum. Learning how to properly do research in college is important because research fosters an environment where learning to gather, analyze, evaluate, and apply information is not only encouraged, but championed. Learning how to find sources of accurate information is not only useful for projects and reports in college but can be used outside of college for any field. For an investigative journalist, research can be the difference between reliable and unreliable information. For a historian, research can be the difference between fact and fiction. Research is not only used in scientific fields but can be used in any field. As an aspiring chemist, I know that research can be used in any field I end up working in.
No matter what field I end up working in, I know that I will use the skills and knowledge that I gain in college. While I may not end up being a chemist, I know that whatever I learn in college, whether it is research, critical thinking, or writing, I will use to my fullest advantage in whatever career I am in.
- Alexis P.