Think to yourself, how many people in your life have chosen not to follow their passion, but instead to follow the money?
Money has a lot more followers today than it did when our parents were in college. Jean M. Twenge and Kristin Donnelly published a study in the Journal of Social Psychology which found that compared to previous generations, American students are increasingly motivated by materialism.
The abstract of the study is this: “Extrinsic reasons for going to college were higher in years with more income inequality, college enrollment, and extrinsic values. These results mirror previous research finding generational increases in extrinsic values begun by GenX and were continued by millennials, suggesting that more recent generations are more likely to favor extrinsic values in their decision-making.”
But why is this the case? Why are young people today so hesitant to follow their dreams? For millennials, I think the answer is the desire for stability and control. Students enrolled in college today use and study technologies that didn’t exist when they were in elementary school. Smart phones, social media and the evolution of the internet into the primary conduit of media and interpersonal connection all gained popularity while attending public schools.
We could be called the first digital generation — some of us have siblings that are younger than Facebook. But with all the digital information and technology comes stress and fear. Millennials are more stressed than previous generations, and the primary reason for that, according to the American Psychological Association, is financial concerns.
The economy is doing better than it was in 2010, so stress is comparatively lower now, but concerns over money aren’t going to go away because one thing is still looming over the heads of college students everywhere: debt.
The student debt crisis is a serious burden on the country and certainly a major contribution to students choosing money over their dreams, myself included. I chose Stony Brook for the value it offered when I was deciding where to go after high school. I got a great scholarship in addition to the already-affordable tuition prices.
I don’t regret my decision, but it’s not necessarily the one I would have made if I were only considering myself and not the fact that my parents also had to help pay for my sister’s tuition in addition to mine. I don’t want to go into crushing debt after college, and that was a consideration I had to make at age 16.
Why would students who are concerned with debt take out loans to go to an expensive school, only to choose a major or career path that leads to low income? Even the prospect of not being able to find a job immediately after college has been enough to sway some friends of mine away from their desired majors and toward a more sure thing.
Money will buy us food and a roof to sleep under after college. It’s not a sure thing that dreams will.