What’s so great about a liberal arts education?

How is Whitman College going to help your future? How are you going to find a job? Why would anyone go for a liberal arts education when there are more careers in business, marketing, computers, and science?

Unfortunately, these are questions I get asked all the time. I don’t think they are meant to be discouraging or make me feel bad about my undergraduate education experience. These questions come from a place of curiosity and ignorance.

A liberal arts education is invaluable. Seriously. Getting a liberal arts education means you are taught to think, and think critically; to ask questions and be critical of what you take for granted; to learn how to navigate new tasks and challenges; to look at issues and form solutions from multiple perspectives; and to always, always ask why. These are skills you can’t learn in books or from sitting in big lecture halls. These are skills you learn in class, writing papers, working on group projects, and going to your professor’s office hours every week to get help. I can’t say any one thing at Whitman has prepared me for my future because it all has. Every experience I’ve had, every class I’ve taken, and every skill I’ve developed has given me the tools I need to face my future. I can write ten page papers and reports without hesitation. I can communicate with people efficiently and professionally. I can network with students, staff, and alums like I was born to do it. I can create documents, visual presentations, graphs, and surveys. I feel at ease giving oral presentations in front of ten, twenty, or fifty people. I write and think carefully, efficiently, and above all, critically. Tell me what employer isn’t looking for those skills.  

We are constantly thinking about our future. Looking ahead is a part of being human and it’s certainly a huge part of being a college student. We choose our school, our major, our friends, our activities, and our jobs and internships based on the kind of future we want. Some people have a clearer sense for what they want their future to look like; some people are just floating along, taking life as it comes. I’ve never been the floating-along-type. I prefer plans and knowing what to expect tomorrow, next week, and in six months. You would think being in college would make someone more stressed and more of a planner. But in my case it hasn’t. While at Whitman I’ve discovered something I never expected: the beauty of taking life as it comes, of relishing uncertainty, and of not trying to plan out my life for the next ten years. I’ve accepted that life is constantly changing and the expectations you have for yourself are sometimes the worst expectations to have. They inhibit you from taking advantage of the opportunities that you didn’t plan for. They stop you from taking risks or forging new paths that will lead to surprising discoveries. I’m not saying don’t have a plan. But I am saying it’s ok not to know what the future holds. And I know Whitman has prepared me for whatever life will bring.  


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