Example Essay #1: Commentary

In the previous lesson, you saw an official LSAT writing sample prompt followed by two example essays written by 7Sage instructors. In this lesson's live commentary video, the first essay's author breaks down his writing process and discusses tips and takeaway lessons.

Essay Text

What is the point of college? Why are millions of high school students stressing out over standardized tests and extracurricular activities each year? Why are millions of college graduates servicing hundreds of millions or billions of dollars of debt? Clearly, all the we spend on college admission–to say nothing of the money we spend on tuition—is an investment. But what, exactly, are we investing in?

The most straightforward answer is that we're investing in our careers. But the proposition that college is an investment in a career is perversely backward. It implies that we live to work, instead of working to live.

College students are not investing in their careers. They are investing in their lives. That's why I argue that colleges would not serve their students' best interests if they were to emphasize career preparation at the expense of a liberal education.

Education, as the inimitable Miss Jean Brodie puts it in the novel The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, comes from the latin "e" meaning "out of" and "duco" meaning lead. It is a leading out. Colleges exist to lead students out of a stultifying miasma of conventional wisdom and received pieties. They exist to lead students out from the rote-ness of "real life". They exist to lead a student out of the confusion of adolescence. Fours years in university—four years to do nothing but read, think, and talk to your peers—offer a rare and priceless chance for a young adult to figure out who he is. An education is, in other words, an investment in one's life and one's self—not just in one's career. As the writer of perspective two testifies, college is a chance to "reflect on [one's] values, the resaons and evidence for them, and whether they are the right values." To cut short this opportunity, to foist career training on students, would be to rob them of their last opportunity to reflect on what they want before they are forced to start chasing what they need. Indeed, college students are standing on the precipice of adulthood, with all its exigencies and emergencies. They are given one last chance to look over it, to prepare themselves, to think about who they want to be. A shift towards more career preparation would be tantamount to pushing those students off the edge.

I argue that we should think of a college education as an investment in one's life, not in one's career. But even if I were to concede that college is—at least in part—an investment in a career, it would not follow that colleges should emphasize career training. The return on one's investment should be measured in happiness, not earnings, and an education that prepares one for some career without helping one choose which career he wants can only lead to dissatisfaction. Discovering one's values is prerequisite to choosing a career wisely, which is in turn prerequisite to happiness.

There's a further irony in the position that colleges should put more emphasis on career preparation: by specializing students prematurely, colleges may unwittingly leave students less prepared. The career advice blog cited in perspective one acknowledges the possibility of "changing job roles within ever-evolving industries." How better to prepare students for those changing roles and evolving industries than to teach students how to think? The rhetorical and analytical skills that are the basis of any good liberal arts education—not to mention the habit of skepticism—is the most flexible and effective career preparation I can envision.

I don't mean to imply that colleges should not embark in any career preparation. Indeed, I believe that students should offer students the opportunity to prepare for the job market. But I feel strongly that the project of college is not "career preparation", it is life itself, for which a career is only the means. If colleges were to emphasize career preparation at the expense of a liberal arts education, they would deprive their students of a priceless opportunity to discover themselves. We don't live to work; we work to live, and at college, we discover what kind of life is worth having.

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