A closer look into a liberal arts education

In a few short weeks, I will be walking across a stage in my cap and gown, grasping tight my diploma while I smile back to my family, who will be attempting to set aside their differences in order to “make the day about me.”

What they won’t realize is that behind my grin is total and utter panic about what the future has in store.

I will be graduating with a bachelor’s in communication from our beloved Hope College. From the first day of FYS until the last day of Senior Sem, we are served lines from articles and research papers that argue the benefits of the liberal arts education. They always seem to say something like, “It’s a wellrounded education that is highly desirable to employers.”

For the first three years of my education at Hope, I believed it. I thought getting a sample of numerous disciplines would help me land plenty of jobs and internships.

And then senior year came and everything I believed about my education turned out to be a lie.

The liberal arts education is not always the superior education.

I’m a person of many interests and different skillsets, so initially liberal arts interested me. Throughout my nearly four years at Hope, I have taken courses in broadcasting, journalism, filmmaking and philosophy, as well as various other gen-ed courses. Sound like a good mix, right? Employers will love to see my vast array of knowledge and will be giving me tons of job offers.


The problem with the liberal arts education is that it’s too diverse. Because I’ve dipped my toes into many different pools, I know a medium amount of information about a lot of topics. What I need is a large amount of information on a small number of topics.

A liberal arts education did not prepare me for the work force. Students who attended non-liberal arts schools have the upper hand. If I choose to go into filmmaking, my two courses are not going to cut it. Journalism? Nope. Broadcasting? Forget it.

I can appreciate the idea that, as contributing members of society, we should be well-rounded. That’s fine. That’s what general education requirements at regular schools do.

I do not feel prepared to enter any field after I graduate, and I am not at fault for that. I have done everything I needed to do in these four years at this school. I have climbed to the top of the ladder in my three areas of interest, but that’s still not enough.

There are several ways that are thought to combat an education that didn’t actually educate you enough. One of those is through internships.

I have had three internships during my time at Hope, yet here I am, writing this column. Communication majors, as well as many other majors at Hope, are required to complete at least one internship in order to graduate, but due to limited resources and connections, students struggle with finding quality options.

Another thing to note is Hope’s lack of connection to the world outside of West Michigan. I always thought that I would leave Michigan once I graduated. I wanted a new experience. The problem I ran into again (and again) was the institution on my resume.

Outside of this region, hardly anyone even knows where Holland, Michigan, is, let alone Hope College. Because of this, they rarely take it seriously. The same problems arise with small liberal arts colleges all across the country.

One of my professors told me the other day that he didn’t understand why many of the students of Hope stay at small jobs and don’t follow expansive dreams, and I think this must play into that. Hope students get pigeonholed into little categories.

Even our Anchor advisor, Mark Lewison, said that you have to try to get your foot in the door at the biggest newspaper you can in order to not get stuck at small papers for your entire career. It makes sense, but that’s not how things pan out.

I’m the Co-Editor-in-Chief of my student newspaper. I’ve written for larger publications and have a few awards to my name. I’m not saying this to pat myself on the back, but rather to list my qualifications. I know I’m qualified for a good journalism job, but I’m going into this next phase of my life trying to make a living off of freelance copy editing work while living in Holland.

One of my best (and proudest) qualities is how stellar I am at job interviews. We’ll make good conversation, we’ll laugh and I’ll have the job pretty much in the bag. That is, until my prospective employers say something to the regards of, “You seem like a good fit, but I worry about your schooling. I don’t feel you have the educational background needed for this job.”

That stings. I know they’re not implying that Hope is a bad school, but they want someone who was taught more about their field. A few journalism courses in four year’s time cannot compete with someone who’s an actual journalism major.

As I’ve mentioned in previous columns, my love for this school runs deep through my veins. I wouldn’t trade my time here for anything else in this world, which makes this incredibly frustrating. Part of me wants to hate Hope. Part of me wants to wish I had gone to Western Washington University like I had thought about doing. But I can’t bring myself to want and wish those things.

Maybe it’s in bad form to kick a college while it’s down. I’m not doing that, though. This is not a Hope-centric problem. The conversation needs to be shifted to what has to change within the liberal arts education. Hope in itself is not to blame – they’re just a symptom of the problem.

I’d hate to think that there are other seniors out there who got trapped in the liberal arts loop and are struggling to find a way out. It ultimately comes down to preparedness. We liberal arts students need a way to get more education, better internships and a surplus of resources to help us along the way.

You wouldn’t put a person into the wild to fend for themselves without the proper education and resources. How could you then allow college seniors to do the same?

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