R-JENERATION: Seniors weigh passion, practicality while picking college, career paths

The class of 2012 is polarized.

Some seniors are scared. Some are optimistic. Many are choosing practicality over passion. Others are going big or going home.

Some seniors at Las Vegas Academy have chosen majors based on the potential job prospects of the economy they will enter after college. Others are pursuing their dreams regardless of pragmatism.

Dina Mustakim, a senior art major, plans to attend the University of Puget Sound to major in premedicine.

“I definitely chose premed because of practicality,” she said. “But I feel like I’m going the easy route. While premed may be one of the hardest academic majors, I went the route that will give me the most security in the long run. I need stability, which I don’t think I can get from doing something artsy.”

On the other hand, one of her best friends, Nicole Whelchel, plans to attend Cincinnati Conservatory to major in flute performance.

“I want to be practical, but at the same time I wanted to go all out,” she said. “I didn’t choose a backup major to be safe because then you’re setting yourself up for failure. I’m going to give everything I’ve got before I resort to backups.”

Whelchel plans to take out a small loan, but chuckles when asked how she’ll pay it back.

“Music is different from other majors because you can’t pay it back,” she said.

For most musicians this is not the case. Jovonie Tejero plans to major in music education.

“Yes it’s practical, but it works out because I do love teaching,” Tejero said. “I want to inspire kids the way my orchestra teacher inspired me. No one cares or gives you jobs if you have a piece of paper saying that you can play. With music education there are jobs available in schools and plenty of private teaching opportunities.”

Fatima Jeghir, who is attending School for the Visual Arts in New York City, has adapted her art to work for her prudently. While she majored in visual arts in high school, she will attend the New York school to major in interior architecture.

“I’m terrified about getting a job,” she said. “I was trying to go more towards something that is in the arts but I can still support myself. If I went to a technical school I’d have to do math or English, but at least at an arts school everything revolves around art so I’m not giving it up completely.”

When making her choice, she took into account that more people with her degree will be needed as the size of metropolitan cities increases.

“Most of it’s not planned out because I really don’t know about the future,” Jeghir added, acknowledging her uncertainty of the future. “I’ll just have to move with the flow. I’m so scared though.”

With some compromising their art with job security, others acknowledged that there is always the chance that it may not all work out. With high unemployment, a “backup plan” seems to be a concept with which many seniors are becoming acquainted.

Tallie Gabriel will be attending New York University in the fall to major in theater performance, however she plans to minor in communications or something media-related for a backup.

“I’m so scared about getting a job,” she said. “Now it is hard to get any job, so you might as well do what you want to do. My backup plan is useful but still combines aspects of my major so I’m not wasting my time.”

Another college trend among graduating seniors is the fear and anxiety that comes with financing higher education. Most suggest it is important to balance fiscal responsibility with dreams.

Adam Zuro of the Las Vegas Academy plans to attend the University of Nevada, Reno to major in environmental science.

“There are some people going to schools because it’s a big name,” he said. “But especially in the sciences, you can learn the same principles in state at UNLV or UNR as you do at a college like Berkeley. When you come out you’ll start off making the same amount of money, but the only difference will be that the person who went with in-state tuition will have much less to pay back and more to save for graduate school.”

Pamela Betkowski, who also plans to attend UNR to major in music, agreed.

“Nowadays it’s more about getting your money’s worth in education,” she said. “Investing wisely for your goals is more important than the reputation of a school.”

Hunter Grolman, also a senior at Las Vegas Academy, plans to major in English at the College of William & Mary in Virginia.

“The sad reality is that a lot of parents make too much to qualify for aid, but it’s completely unrealistic for them to pay for it and still live their lives,” she said. “I’ve asked myself if it is really worth it to put this burden on my parents so I can go to some school across the country. I have a little bit of guilt, but at the same time I want to leave and go out into the world. It’s hard.”

Grolman also has faced varying reactions about her choice to major in English. However, she remains optimistic.

“People give me this look of pity because they think I’ll never get a job, and I’ll be stuck teaching middle school English somewhere obscure,” she said. “You can do a lot with an English degree. I can go to graduate school or law school. When they ask me what my backup plan is I tell them that I can do anything I want.”

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