Ever since freshman year of high school, I envisioned my first day of college as large lecture halls, new friends across the dorm floors and, ultimately, the first step into adulthood. However, the reality was none of the above; in fact, my classes were just one Zoom link to the next, virtually nonexistent outlets to meet new people all taking place without moving from the desk in my room.
To say the least, the start of my freshman year did not quite meet my expectations.
Despite these circumstances, I maintained a positive outlook on my college experience. I was especially excited to take classes that interested me, free from the limited course offerings in high school. However, when I attended CAB Fair, I was shocked by clubs’ emphasis on life after Georgetown University. From consulting clubs to pre-law societies, it felt as if everyone around me was joining organizations with resumes, networking and internships as the main focus rather than finding outlets to expand passions and grow as students.
This pre-professionalism, perpetuated by Georgetown University’s club culture, undermines the purpose of undergraduate education: academic exploration without bound.
When confronted with this emphasis on job prospects, I felt as if I were suddenly behind my peers. With no set career goal in mind, I began to question if I was at a disadvantage for job opportunities once I graduated. Additionally, I wondered if I would regret down the road not prioritizing my future profession over exploring anything that interests me. This paranoia sent me into a spiral of submitting application after application to clubs in hopes of bridging this perceived gap in achievement.
Pre-professional culture doesn’t only exist in the realm of clubs; in fact, many of my social interactions with fellow students have been centered around our future career goals. It has come to the point where a staple icebreaker has been stating our objectives after graduation, despite not having stepped onto campus as students and without even a complete semester under our belts. From clubs to informal social interactions, the persistent pre-professional mentality has inundated nearly all facets of my limited time at Georgetown.
This panic then started to skew my course selection for future semesters. Instead of taking courses I found a genuine interest in, I began to fixate on courses that would ensure positive career outcomes later in life: courses or majors that would yield the greatest outcomes post-graduation. On top of that stress, I considered what type of schedule would help me score those prestigious internships during my summers at Georgetown. Soon enough, I realized this mindset only made me more anxious, uneasy and stressed than I was before. It reached a point where I spent hours trying to piece my post-graduate timeline together despite starting college just weeks before.
When students focus on pre-professional endeavors, it’s not entirely negative. Making career plans at this stage in our lives is important, as it caters opportunities to our concrete career interests. However, there comes a point when this persistent mentality may degrade academic exploration and only push this mindset onto other students who might not have developed their career goals as extensively. In doing so, college becomes less of an intended academic playground to explore opportunities and more of a race-to-the-end scenario, prioritizing our life after Georgetown over the actual undergraduate experience.
Idolizing pre-professionalism over all else is a detrimental mindset to have. Pushing this narrative disincentivizes students from looking at college with an open mind, preventing them from selecting classes and pursuing clubs that deepen their current passions while introducing them to completely new subjects. College should be a place where academic exploration is boundless and encouraged with pre-professionalism as a bonus, not the sole focus.
The Georgetown community must take action to protect students from unhealthy obsessions about their future plans. The first step in dismantling a toxic pre-professional culture is showing students — particularly first-years — the consequences of focusing too much on their long-term career prospects. From anxious pondering to ultimate burnout, this mentality only instigates unnecessary unease and conflict, hindering one’s well-being and ability to academically succeed.
Our community must instead encourage underclassmen to explore majors, clubs and careers without fear of falling behind. With Georgetown’s emphasis on academic exploration through extensive general education requirements, we must stay true to the core curriculum’s purpose by encouraging students to engage in various fields of study without fear or worry.
Despite the virtual setting, I would not trade my time at Georgetown for anything. However, if we diminish the prevalent pre-professional mentality, I believe Georgetown life can be more enjoyable and exhilarating, even if it’s through the computer screen.
Brandon Lee is a first-year student in the College.