Example Essay #2: Commentary

In the last lesson, the we looked at the first of two example essays. In this lesson, we look at a second essay that responds to the same writing prompt as the first, with a live commentary video that dissects the author's writing process.

Why have two examples based on the same prompt? Simple. It's important to see that there's no singular "right way" to craft an LSAT essay. Different test-takers will craft different responses using different arguments, and that's fine. You want your own voice to come through in your essay! What's important is that you use your time wisely to build an essay that's organized, that engages meaningfully with the prompt, and that supports a clearly identified position.

Essay Text

As a mechanical engineering graduate, I have experienced a discipline of post-secondary education that places significant value on marketable, practicable career skills. I have benefited greatly from this style of education, having worked in challenging and rewarding roles for which I was well and uniquely prepared and which would have been unavailable to me had I pursued a less career-oriented liberal arts education. Moreover, I was able to secure such roles while my peers in other, less marketable disciplines experienced difficulties in securing stable, long-term employment commensurate with their skills and suited to their interests. The job market clearly favored those of us who had prioritized a career-oriented education. However, I do not believe that colleges and universities necessarily serve their students' best interests by emphasizing career preparation as the overriding objective of a post-secondary education.

First, it is important to recognize that students' long-term interests and motivations for pursuing post-secondary education are varied. Many students come to an undergraduate education for reasons other than, or in addition to, cultivating marketable career skills. While some students may value their post-graduation career prospects less than I did when deciding on a major, it would be patronizing for me, or for university administrators, to prescribe students' values to them by emphasizing job skills over other educational goals.

Some may respond that the current socioeconomic climate simply demands that job prospects be the highest priority, and whether students like it or not, their interests are nevertheless best served by equipping them with specific workplace skills. However, there are two problems with this approach. The first issue is that not all students are prepared to decide on a career path when they matriculate, and hemming students into a dedicated, career-focused discipline would only serve to constrain their options upon graduation. Vocational and professional programs necessarily emphasize depth of knowledge over breadth, and students who graduate from such programs are primed for a limited array of career options. While this situation is acceptable and even preferable for those of us with a strong sense of our preferred careers, it would be a disservice to those students who require more latitude in their studies and eventual career options.

To see the second problem with emphasizing career skills over all other considerations requires that we take a historical perspective on the role of the university over time. Universities originated in medieval Europe, when religious institutions served as both the primary source of knowledge and truth and as one of the major sources of employment in the medieval knowledge economy. These medieval universities also existing at a time when job prospects for uneducated, unskilled laborers were bleak. Surely, a job in the seminary was preferable to working as a subsistence farmer. Yet one wonders what society would now look like had medieval universities emphasized workplace skills to secure positions in the church for all their students. Without the freedom of inquiry and breadth of intellectual exposure that universities offered in centuries past, it is difficult to imagine that the same scientific, political, legal, and social advancements that we now take for granted would have evolved so readily.

All this is not to say, however, that career-focused education shapes students into automatons that can only perform limited workplace functions. Indeed, my highly career-centric engineering education provided substantial intellectual benefits beyond the sphere of engineering. The depth of analytical skills I developed as an engineering student has shaped the ways in which I approach all manner of problems. These skills have even surfaced as I prepared for the LSAT, and I expect they will therefore be likewise valuable in law school and beyond. Similarly, the mathematical skills I developed have helped me to organize my abstract thinking skills beyond the realm of numeracy.

But these were skills I chose to cultivate because I was able to pursue a discipline according to my own interests and priorities. The skills I developed are not the sum total of all knowledge and skills available through a unversity education, and it would be a loss to students and society to artificially constrain the purpose of universities to mere job preparation. Capable and inquisitive minds are the best resource our society has. The more opportunities there are for students to cultivate such minds, irrespective of their job priorities, the better.

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