Education Ranks High Among Americans’ Top Regrets
By Dr. Mark Atkinson
As an undergraduate, my psychology 101 class was a life changer. The course taught me so much about life’s many parts and stages. Above all else, I learned humans feel that interpersonal relations are the most significant aspect of life.
I believe this is true. Actor William Hurt framed it well when he said, “The world moves for love. It kneels before it in awe.”
When love is going well, everything seems great. But the opposite can also be true. Problems in love or missed opportunities with love rank high among regrets experienced by Americans. PsychCentral, among others, publishes ranked lists of regrets. They found that we also have them about feuding with family (heartbreaking), parenting, financial decisions, career decisions, and our health.
As for myself, I greatly regret not continuing as a percussionist from junior high into high school. I played drums in my middle school’s band, then stopped in the tenth grade. This still feels like a serious mistake. I was actually pretty good, and continuing could have helped me be better in other areas during my teenage years.
Thankfully, 25 years later (six years ago) I bought a used drum set and started again.
Working in higher education, I noticed that education is also high on many regrets lists. We lament not studying more, not studying abroad, not going to graduate school, not selecting a different major, or not trying for a better school. Perhaps the most unfortunate, many regret not finishing their degree at all.
Over many years as an educator and entrepreneur, I have discussed educational regret with countless people. It’s real, and it’s prevalent. It is also one of the easiest regrets to put to rest.
Why do we stop doing important things after starting? Sometimes we just do not understand their importance at the time. Concerning unfinished college degrees, we become busy in careers, have families, run out of money, or cannot pass college algebra. It is a tragedy that this last requirement, college algebra, keeps so many students from completing their bachelor’s degree. Although STEM education and jobs often require it, very few other Americans use this skill. Entry level requirements for jobs are increasing. However, many mid-career adults lack this needed education. The lack of a completed bachelor’s degree becomes both a personal regret and a professional hindrance.
Colleges and universities, to serve and serve well, must offer ways for mid-career adults to complete a degree. Recognizing this, Sierra Nevada College now offers a flexible bachelor’s degree in general studies. The degree is granted through multiple pathways – online, in-person, or a combination of the two. Credits from any number of accredited schools may be accepted and organized in thematic clusters to complete a Bachelor of General Studies Degree. Compassion, flexibility, and rigor are all there.
Finishing a college degree can come right off your regrets list.
Dr. Mark Atkinson
Vice President for Academic Extension at Sierra Nevada College