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Education in America is often judged by the potential for financial return. It is not uncommon to read how graduates of certain courses earn $x more in their lifetime when compared to others, or how one school has more benefit than another. And that student debt is ‘spiraling out of control’, courses cost too much, and repayments at the start of their independent adult lives cripple graduates. Each student must make their own choices then, but the factors are more than financial - potential students must consider relationships, life lessons, personal growth, status and more when deciding.
So with 4 years already under their belt, and the thought of more time and debt ahead of them, how does an individual choose to go onto business school? To find out I talked to Natalie Dunn, a recent graduate of DU.
Question: With a first degree under your belt, you had the life experiences, you had the status for employment - what pushed you to business school?
I think for many there are a variety of reasons that continuing education after an undergraduate degree is appealing. Many still aren't sure of a career path and the idea of continuing as a student is much better than going into an entry level job that might not be the right fit. For others, the draw of a higher starting salary after an MBA is the main draw. And others come to the realization that what they studied in their undergraduate 4 years was completely off track of what they actually want to do in a career. I had a very liberal arts undergraduate experience and only realized in the end of my third year of university that I wanted to focus more on business. Rather than the typical liberal arts decision to go to law school rather than face the fact that job options are limited, I decided to focus the remaining year on taking business classes with hopes to go back to get an MBA and a more business-focused higher education.
Question: What ultimately do you hope your education will bring you that wouldn't otherwise have been accessible?
A more business specific and focused education is something that couldn't be found in an entry-level job. It also gives for more time to focus on building specific strengths and skills in order to make the job finding process more manageable and hopefully more successful. Many times people rush into first jobs without a true career path in mind and end up with a sour taste in their mouths from their first experiences out in the working world. An appeal to me is to also be in a fostering environment that might not be found otherwise, with experienced professors and an environment focused on innovation.
Question: In Europe the cost of education is significantly lower, in part because the typical undergrad is 3 years instead of 4, but also because it is highly supplemented. Do you think you would have made different choices in such an environment?
From what I know through the European teammates and students I met throughout my college experience, it is my understanding that most European school systems require specialization at a much younger age than we do in America. This can be both a positive and negative being that it could force people through a path that they may not have chosen had they matured more academically. At the same time, American students tend to procrastinate when it comes to the decision making process of choosing a career path and end up spending years on higher education and hundreds of thousands of dollars just to figure it out. If I were in a European environment I most likely would have specialized already and would know exactly the type of higher education that would be needed for my field rather than spending more years on education to figure it out.
Question: Natalie, thank you for taking the time. I am interested first in learning about why you first chose to do your under grad course.
It is pretty expected to go straight from high school to university in America. This sometimes leads to a lack of maturity and a year of wasted courses where students don't know what they want to focus on. For me, I was an athlete and went to college on an athletic scholarship so it would have been against the rules to take off time between high school and college. As an athlete I was very limited to what courses I could choose due to our training schedule. I found an interest in a human rights law class I took as a first year student and ended up taking enough international studies classes that I made it my major. I focused on international politics and international economics so it was well-rounded but I do wish I had more of an international finance background looking back. That desire prompts me to go back to get an MBA in international business or something similar that would allow me to merge my passion for international economics and business. When I went into my fourth year of college I found a love for business that eventually led me to a passion for working with young companies and entrepreneurial studies. Most things in college careers for American students happen through luck and the chance of meeting and getting to know professors who open their eyes to career paths and interests that might never have been considered before.
Question: Who's responsibility is the cost of education?
I was raised in an environment where the responsibility of the cost of education lies solely on the parents. This is a very fortunate place to be as the student, however, it can also lead to laziness and a lack of drive if a student has no vested financial interest or understanding of the sacrifices made to provide an education. Parents are most definitely responsible for instilling the value of education in their children and making sure they have the access to education in whatever form possible. But if at this point children are taking education for granted, especially at the college level where tuitions can be upwards of $50-60k per year, the responsibility must fall back on the student in order for them to take it seriously and be motivated.