As I look back on the last three years and towards my last two semesters, I’m discouraged. College is a great experience with many benefits, but I have found myself discontent with the structure of education.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying I haven’t enjoyed or found benefit in my time at Mason. I have learned a lot and grown substantially in my three years at college, but I don’t believe that I have had a practical education. The problem is the system. The workforce requires anyone wishing to make more than minimum wage to have at least a bachelors degree, four full years of schooling, before anyone considers paying you more than minimum wage.

There is a clear distinction between myself and some of my peers, though. As a humanities major, I am not studying a skill set. My classes are largely theory based and I am not sure that I am any better prepared to enter the workforce than I was three years ago.

Sure, I am much more well versed in the names of communication theory, have a basic knowledge of astronomy and will soon be able to read classic literature in Latin, but are those skills worth the tens of thousands of dollars I’ve invested?

Advanced study in subjects like the humanities are important, but I find it sad to see my classes full of students who chose a communication degree just to struggle through their four years earn and that piece of paper they are required to have for success. If I could redesign higher education, I would redefine what it meant to go to college. Not every subject matter should necessitate four years of school, general education should be completely reworked and work-study programs would more fully prepare students for the real world.

It is a touchy subject to rate how difficult one major is over another, but I struggle with the idea that I need just as much time to earn a bachelor’s degree in communication as someone studying biology.

The four year standard for all degrees simply doesn’t make sense. In my degree program, I would have been much better suited with an internship program that injected me into the workforce to learn on the fly.

In a perfect model, I would have loved to alternate my semesters between studying and internships, like a trade school. Having a deeper understanding of a topic, something that is sometimes best learned in the classroom is important, but there is no textbook that can truly prepare you for your first real job.

My primary goal in seeking out a college degree is to earn that well-paid dream job, and sometimes I feel like higher education is out of touch with that idea. I understand and agree with the concept of being a well-rounded student and employee and agree that general education classes are important.

But after sitting through astronomy, quantitative reasoning and American history, I can tell you that those are not skills that will ever be relevant in my career or life. Here’s my solution: instead of quantitative reasoning, why not a class on how to balance a checkbook, negotiate a fair mortgage rate and file my taxes?

How about instead of teaching theories and specifics that do nothing to lend to a skill set, we teach practical application life skills that will foster a successful and independent adult life.

Everyone deserves the chance and opportunity to continue their education, but no one should be forced to. Attending college should be about a desire, not a demand.

For an in-class writing prompt a few weeks ago, I likened college to a spin class. At first I was motivated and excited for the challenge I knew I was about to face. I started off strong and easily kept up with the pace, but the energy wore off quickly. The hills got steeper and the pace picked up, alternating between slow and agonizing climbs and quick sprints. Now, as my junior year winds down I’m feeling fatigued.

In spin class, pushing through the last agonizing 15 minutes makes the end even more rewarding, because you know you have truly done something beneficial for yourself. I’m afraid my spin class and college metaphor ends there.