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In a recent national survey of college freshmen, 56.5 percent said that future job prospects were a "very important" factor in deciding which school to attend. According to the Cooperative Institutional Research Program at the University of California, Los Angeles, which conducts the survey annually, this figure represents the highest rate since 1985.

While we believe that many students choose Brown for other reasons — especially its open curriculum and reputation for happy students — we do wonder how economic pressures are affecting Brown students' choices once they are enrolled. Indeed, members of the class of 2012 will declare their concentrations this semester amid rising unemployment and a severe economic crisis.

Choosing between concentrations is already difficult, as students must think carefully about their academic interests, remaining time at Brown and goals after graduation. In an ideal world students could simply choose to concentrate in the subjects about which they feel most passionate. But given the economic climate and the cost of a Brown education, it would be irresponsible to suggest that students disregard thoughts of life after Brown when making this important decision.

To ensure that students choosing concentrations can act on informed deliberation and not mere anxiety, we hope all departments will take extra efforts in the coming months to educate students about the career paths available to concentrators. For subjects like computer science and economics, a range of options is relatively well defined. But for other areas, especially in the humanities, potential concentrators may want a little help answering that inevitable question: What do you plan to do with your degree?

The English department has set an excellent example. It recently surveyed alumni concentrators from the classes of 1999 to 2007 about how their degree has affected their careers and then posted all the responses online. We commend this effort both for giving students access to a vast array of informative testimonials and for focusing on recent alumni who are most familiar with how a Brown degree is perceived today.

The Career Development Center's Web site has a page devoted to "Careers & Concentrations," but it only contains a paragraph of general advice. While the CDC is right to note that a liberal arts education prepares students for a vast array of careers, it should develop this part of its Web page and offer more specific information about individual concentrations.

The CDC's Web site also directs students to BRUnet, a powerful networking tool that allows students to search alumni by a number of criteria, including concentration. However, departments like Africana Studies and Theatre Arts are underrepresented in the database.

We hope the CDC and the Alumni Association will increase their efforts to add additional alumni information, and we encourage students to use this valuable resource.

When seeking reassurance, students are frequently told that a liberal arts education at Brown is ultimately an education in thinking critically and creatively — skills that will serve students well in whichever field they choose later on. Indeed, in many cases the connection between one's concentration and career options may be overstated.

Nonetheless, in the midst of a severe recession, the University can do more to help ease students' concerns.

Editorials are written by The Herald's editorial page board. Send comments to



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