Why parents push their kids to go to college

by Grace

The pressure to attend college is high.

I have written about how the “college for all” movement is misguided, and how “too many college graduates are chasing too few college-level jobs“.  Yet I concede that I wholly understand most parents’ strong desire for their children to go to college.  A recent want ad for what some young people might consider a dream job highlights this dilemma.

A major television network is seeking a Music Coordinator for one of its talk shows.  The responsibilities include handling all the various details involved in arranging for musical guests.  Specific details are described in the job posting partly reproduced below.  Requirements include at least one year of related experience and a college degree.  I suspect that one or two young people I know would be very interested in this job.

College degree is required.

As can be imagined, there are many young music enthusiasts with years of experience working with bands and music venues who could capably handle this job.  Because they were busy devoting so much time and energy to the music business, some never completed college.  It’s easy to see how a person fitting this profile could be the ideal candidate for this network position.  In addition to extensive experience, this person would bring a great enthusiasm for the music business to this job.

This Music Coordinator job could be the entree to a satisfying career in the field of musical entertainment.

But with no college degree, any chances at this dream job are minuscule.  The hiring manager really can’t be blamed for only considering candidates who have graduated from college.  As a practical matter, it helps winnow the huge volume of applications.  Plus it acts a signalling device, at the very least indicating the candidate had the discipline and intelligence needed to get through four years of college.  And when so many job seekers are college graduates, the decision to hire someone who lacks a degree could be hard to justify to upper management.

So there we are.  Often the best advice is to just go get that college degree, even if it means majoring in film studies, gender studies, music appreciation, or whatever.  Just do it.


Here is the job that requires a college degree:

JOB TITLE Music Coordinator
BUSINESS SEGMENT NBC Entertainment
CITY New York
RESPONSIBILITIES Responsibilities:

  • Coordinate Guest Bands for Talk Show
  • Connect with Production Managers to discuss and coordinate stage plot, backline, ordering supplemental equipment, pick up and delivery, band riders etc.
  • Help set-up band equipment
  • Help break down band equipment
  • Secure paperwork and approvals for payment
QUALIFICATIONS/REQUIREMENTS Qualifications:

  • College Degree required
  • 1+ years professional music production work experience required
  • Must be proficient on Mac

 Eligibility Requirements:

  • You must be willing to submit to a background investigation as part of the selection process
  • Must have ability to work flexible hours due to the production schedule of the show; including weekends and evenings when necessary
  • References from previous employers required
  • Ability to work in a fast paced environment, multi-task and be agreeable to changes
DESIRED CHARACTERISTICS Desired Characteristics

  • Strong interpersonal and organizational skills
  • Knowledge and interest in music is a plus
  • Technical knowledge of music production equipment a plus

Related:  College graduates who majored in fine arts are not doomed to a life of poverty (Cost of College)

8 Comments to “Why parents push their kids to go to college”

  1. This is the type of job to which many of our media&communications majors aspire. I honestly do not think a typical person fresh out of high school would be able to cope with a job like this – they don’t have the “strong interpersonal and organizational” skills yet. Obviously, an older person without a degree but with work experience would be fine at this. But how can someone fresh out of high school, with no college, get to the point of having work experience? College, especially in majors like media&communications, provide a pathway via internships. Yes, we could move majors like that to vocational schools, as Germany does, but that has never been the way we do it in the US. Even when I was in college, universities typically had lots of applied, career-oriented majors that one would not see in a university in Europe.

    The big case for college, besides the fact that the unemployment rate for young people without college is way higher than for those with college, is that we don’t have any structured way to move kids from high school to career. In the old days, there were lots of manufacturing jobs for which fairly immature kids were suited, but many careers today are in settings that are more sophisticated. The actual position may not require specific college-level skills, but to function in these settings and have a career path, the person needs more maturity.

  2. In the example i wrote about, the person would have gained extensive experience by spending years playing in his own band starting in high school, along with arranging for gigs. I can think of many types of jobs where a high school graduate could develop the types of skills needed for jobs like the one listed. In fact, it could be argued that a person who works during the four-five years after high school can develop job skills much more efficiently than a college student with one or two internships.

  3. I honestly don’t think the typical kid who plays in a high school rock band is ready to work at NBC, at least not the kids I knew in bands!!!
    And yes, someone who works for 4 to 5 years after high school probably does have the skills – I thought I made that point – but how did he or she get hired to start with, straight out of high school?

  4. CSProfMom, I disagree somewhat with your assertion “that has never been the way we do it in the US. ”
    When I was in college (starting 1971), colleges did not have that many vocational majors. There were a few, but kids who wanted to get job training did so through vocational schools (which were mostly not called colleges then, though they are now) or on-the-job training. Companies have cut way back on on-the-job training, vocational schools have rebranded themselves as colleges, and colleges have started offering vocational degrees. So things have changed, and what is “normal” now is not how it has always been.

  5. CSProfMom — I probably was not very clear in describing the profile of a non-college graduate who would qualify for that network job. I know young people who fit this profile:

    Started playing with a band in high school, performing in venues ranging from high school events to Manhattan clubs.
    Halfheartedly started college while continuing heavy involvement with the band. Worked part-time in retail or in music-related businesses.
    Dropped out of college, but stayed in the music business. Maybe even toured with a band, all the while gaining experience in the business details of coordinating schedules, booking gigs, arranging transportation, getting paid, paying for and marketing recordings, etc. Continued to work at other jobs, usually involving customer service. An example might be Guitar Center retail store,

    In his mid-twenties, this person could be well qualified for the posted position. Does this make sense?

  6. What are we counting as a vocational major? For example, many schools offer a BS in horticulture. Is that vocational or university level? Those programs in horticulture tend to be quite old. Why? Well, lets go back to the original mission of the land grant university, a type of institution that has historically dominated American higher ed. According to the Morrill Act, the purpose of these schools was to “without excluding other scientific and classical studies and including military tactic, to teach such branches of learning as are related to agriculture and the mechanic arts, in such manner as the legislatures of the States may respectively prescribe, in order to promote the liberal and practical education of the industrial classes in the several pursuits and professions in life”. Hmmm, agriculture and mechanical arts, sounds pretty vocational to me. And “industrial classes”? Sounds like they were aiming at the less traditional students already. Scientific and classical studies are given short shrift “without excluding”. So, in other words, the focus of the land grant universities, educationally (there is also verbiage about service), is to teach stuff that is pretty vocational to people who did not normally go to college, and umm, they could have some liberal arts and science too.

    So, when you look at land grant schools, you will see a lot of applied, practical majors, like horticulture, or equine management (at Univ of KY). That is a huge point of difference from European universities, which would not typically have such majors.

    There are other majors that were once not taught in universities, but which made the switch so long ago that we think of them as traditional university majors now. Nursing is the big example. My grandmother, and my husband’s mother, did not get their nursing degrees in a college. They went to hospital affiliated nursing schools, which was the norm up through the 60′s. But university level nursing schools started appearing in the 60′s, and now it is accepted as a normal university level major. A lot of the other allied health fields followed that trajectory. At my university in 1980, you could do programs in physical therapy, dietetics, and pottery. Most of us accept physical therapy as a normal university degree, but at one time, you went to a vocational school to study that field.

    Education is another field that was once vocational, but now is university level and pretty much accepted as such. At one time, teachers went to “normal schools” rather than colleges. Many of these normal schools turned eventually into full fledged colleges by the 60′s, and then became universities. Scratch a directional state U, and you are likely to find a normal school in its past.

    Or perhaps you simply mean majors that in your opinion, usually accept weak students. You mention film studies above. My undergraduate university not only had film studies, it had an entire College of Communications and this was one of the prestige units in the university, accepting some of the very best students. I think the programs that accept weak students vary all over the place, and often include the most traditional majors.

    My main point is that because of the legacy of the Morrill Act, as well as the normal schools, American higher ed has always had a strongly practical, career-oriented tilt, which leads our universities to add majors that European universities might scoff at. Whether we like it or not, this is American higher ed.

  7. Because my DH played in semi successful rock bands for many years post-college, I have known quite a few guys who followed the trajectory you describe – pursuing a band that “might” make it while working at the Guitar Center (or back in the day, a record store). Trust me, none of the guys I knew could have made it in the NBC corporate environment. Most of them lived in their parents basements for years.

    I have no doubt that there are some people out there who have followed the path you describe who would be suited for the job, but most would not. They may be perfectly suited for similar jobs in less demanding locations though – maybe booking acts and doing setup for a nightclub? Most of these people, in my experience, have not been high energy people. The question for NBC is – how to tell which candidates are high energy and able to communicate on the level of a major TV network? Well, one way is to require a college degree.

  8. “The question for NBC is – how to tell which candidates are high energy and able to communicate on the level of a major TV network? Well, one way is to require a college degree.”

    Exactly. So the capable individuals who lack college degrees lose out.

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