college experience

Is the Liberal Arts Degree Passe?

The cost of college coupled with the bleak employment outlook for college graduates has caused many a high school student to feel the pressure of declaring a major that will be “useful” at graduation. As a career coach for college students and graduates, I am often asked the question: is the liberal arts degree passé? Bill Gates recently argued that our country needs to reduce the money spent on liberal arts education as it doesn’t create jobs. Steve Jobs was quoted 2 days later saying that “at Apple, it’s technology married with liberal arts married with the humanities that makes our hearts sing”. In an attempt to settle the issue, a research team from Duke and Harvard surveyed over 650 senior executives. The findings made my heart sing: gaining a college degree made a big difference in terms of employment, but the major and the school selected were not major factors. Our society needs artists, musicians and psychologists as much as we need bio-medical engineers and computer programmers.

My advice to high school and college students remains unchanged: study what interests you the most. Excel in fields in which you have the most passion and ability. Your GPA will most likely be higher and you will enjoy your college experience.

Any field of study today requires that students engage at their school of choice to build a portfolio of marketable skills. Employers want proof that a job candidate can communicate, think analytically, solve problems and work well with others. A strong work ethic and the ability to self manage remain at the top of the list of attractive qualities especially in a lean job environment.

Consider the student who majors in accounting: their mastery of accountancy is a given upon graduation. The ability to communicate, work well with others and a strong work ethic will make them stand out.

College students can build these marketable skills by obtaining paid part time work, internships (sophomore and junior year are ideal), leadership and participation in student organizations as well as volunteer work. Just as students built their resumes in high school for college applications they now have to build their resumes for the job market throughout college. College is a time for exploration; many a college student changes major and career interests as they explore the options open to them.

Still undecided? Keep in mind that many jobs that are now seen as commonplace did not exist 5 years ago—social media, forensic accounting and video gaming to name a few. In fact, 40% of the jobs being done in the country did not exist 10 years ago. It’s virtually impossible to predict where the jobs will be in 5 years. It’s all the ability to learn and be flexible in this fast changing world.

Written by: Susan Kennedy, Founder of Career Treking

Why everyone should consider a Gap Program

Special Gap Year Programs Benefit ManyGap year and gap semester programs have always been very popular in Europe and are quickly gaining popularity in the U.S. For some students, this hiatus from the lock step march through their academic careers provides a timely opportunity to tackle new challenges, pursue passions and become more self-confident, self-sufficient and self-aware through travel, work, study and community service. These benefits of a gap program are well-recited, but there are less obvious yet equally compelling reasons to take advantage of this experience.

It's more than just backpacking

Study Abroad's New Focus is Job Skills We've always believed in the many merits of Study Abroad and have encouraged our clients to take full advantage of these opportunities. However, employers have not felt as warmly about these opportunities, often dismissing them as "a few months backpacking through Europe."

However, that tide is slowly turning and, thanks to people like Cheryl Matherly, the former assistant dean of students for career and international education at Rice University, who are helping students to describe their study abroad experience in terms of transferrable, marketable skills.

Hopefully, more and more employers will see that value that hiring a graduate who has spent time navigating their way through a foreign culture can bring to their companies.

Spray and Wear: One size fits all

Fashion in a Can: The Clothes you can Spray On Well, I usually like to keep my blogs more pressing and pertinent topics, but on this rainy Friday afternoon this piece in Forbes about sprayable clothes better held my attention than the more timely article about "How the ACTs have caught up with the SATs".

Just the idea of "spray and go" clothing makes me smile - no more worrying if the pants are too snug, the skirt too short, or the shirt the wrong color. Sprayable clothing opens a world of fashion possibilities. The best part for me -the inventor was probably one of those hard to teach kids who never followed the rules, thought outside the box, and walked to the proverbial beat of his own drum. And look where he is now. So, to all of you who are frustrated by children/students/friends who are insist on drawing outside the lines, know that one day they may find a solution to a problem you didn't even know you had. And get rich doing it.

Math that Everyone Could Use

Tufts Students Learn to Numbers Crunch At Tufts University, students are learning how to figure out credit card debt, decide whether it makes better sense to lease or to buy their new car, and even how to balance their checkbook. Designed for those non-math types, this seems like a course that would be valuable to anyone.

What does "class participation" really mean?

What\'s the Problem with Quiet Students? In the days when I was teaching high school English, I put considerable effort into making sure that my students were actively participating in my classes. It was what I was encouraged to do - students had to be joining in class discussions, offering their ideas and opions, to be engaged in their learning. Over time, it occured to me that this might not be the case for every student. Certainly there are those who, for myriad reasons, choose to sit quietly and listen. Grades bore no evidence that the quieter students were submitting work of inferior quality to those who couldn't put their hands down. So I backed off, found other ways to egnage the quieter students in classroom activities, and focused on creating a classroom where each individual's learning style was respected.

Is providing a low-cost, no-frills education the way to go?

The Olive Garden Theory of Higher Education If ever-increasing tuitions is putting the cost of higher education beyond the reach of the masses, perhaps paring down to the essentials as a way to make college accessible to the masses is an approach worth considering.

Making the Most of Your College Years Congratulations to the class of 2014! You've just started what many consider to be the best four years of your life - your undergraduate college years. While we hope that you will make your academic work the focus of your experience, be sure to take full advantage of all that your college has to offer, both within and beyond the walls of your classroom buildings.

We wish all of you the best of luck!!

The College Layette

Students, Welcome to College; Parents, Go Home A friend called me a few weeks ago to report that she had just finished buying all the pieces she needed for a layette. "For whom?" I inquired, anxiously, knowing that her youngest child was 12. "For Ben, of course" was the reply. I couldn't help but laugh - Ben is 18 years old and headed off to college this week. In just the way she had prepared for his arrival into this world, his college layette included all the sheets, towels, blankets and toiletries he would need to embark on his new life. The important difference being, of course, that his college layette is a gift of the things he needs to start his life away from her, and independent from her.

This moment of separation seems increasingly difficult for parents who aren't ready to say goodbye, even after they have moved their child into their freshman dorm room. Colleges vary in response to this separation anxiety in various ways but many are becoming increasingly clear about when it is time for the parents to leave and for the college to take over in its roles and responsibilities.

Ben is going to be just fine in college - his parents have spent 18 years teaching him how to be self-sufficient, independent, and self-confident. He will stumble, he will make bad choices, and he will recover. But, most importantly, he will do all these things without his parents looking over his shoulder because he can. And on really bad days, he'll have a nice blanket to wrap himself up in.

Williams is the best... or is it???

America's Best Colleges According to a new report by Forbes, Williams is the college that best meets students needs. Having just visited Williams last month, I can tell you that the campus is stunning, the facilities are state-of-the-art, the faculty are very impressive, and their Tutorials Program, based loosely on the tutorial style teaching at Oxford and Cambridge, make this a top-notch place to live and learn. It seems like a no-brainer to encouage students to apply here. And therein lies the rub of these one-size-fits-all rankings. While Forbes evaluated colleges based on ten factors including the students' rankings of their academic experiences, the amount of debt they incurred, their opportunities to distinguish themselves academically, and their ultimate career success, no one ranking can decide for an individual what school should be on the top of their list.

For example, for student looking for a lively weekend scene, the opportunities to be involved in Greek life, or the excitement of cheering on a Division 1 Football team, Williams would fall towards the bottom of the list. And there are other, much more subtle, distinctions between schools that prospective students should make. What type of students thrive here? What is the social/political climate? What does the school value? There are all questions that should be asked of any college, but are factors that will never be included on college ranking lists because there is no way to objectify this data.

So, congratulations to Williams College for ranking Number 1 on Forbes' Best Colleges in America List - you certainly are an outstanding liberal arts college in rural Massachusetts with a very strong math and science program. But, if for those looking for something different in their college experience, don't let Forbes create your college list for you.

Why it's important to learn how to think

Hearing the right notes from a job candidate With the rising price tag on college education and the tightening job market, parents are increasingly concerned about whether or not their son or daughter will be able to get a job upon graduation. Fair enough - with four-year tuition bills approaching the quarter of a million dollar mark, it's not unreasonable for parents to hope that their child will have the skills they need to land "a good job." However, many employers are looking beyond the bullet points on the resume and are asking job applicants questions that tap into their abilities to reason, problem-solve, and be creative. So, while some jobs do require a specific set of skills that can be acquired through course work, internships, and research projects, attractive job applicants also can demonstrate not just what they have learned in during their undergraduate experience, but how their college education, regardless of their course of study, has taught them to think.

Medical school for poets

Getting in to med school without hard sciences Mount Sinai medical school accepts a small percentage of applicants who have not taken organic chemistry, physics, or the dreaded MCATS each year, finding that those who majored in the humanities as undergrads actually make more sensitive doctors. It's too soon to know if more medical schools will head in this direction, but given the wide range of skills and expertise demanded of doctors, it's nice to know that they're not all following the same path.

How to kick the tires of study abroad programs

7 Signs of Successful Study Abroad Programs No question - more colleges are offering more study abroad opportunities. Some colleges are even requiring it. However, if you're serious about taking advantage of this tremendous opportunity, be sure to spend some time in the Study Abroad Office asking these hard questions. The more you know, the more successful and rewarding your experience abroad will be.

Backpacks amoung the breifcases Some students thrive on the noise and excitement of urban life and are excited about the many unique opportunities of living in a city. However, for some, being a college student in New York places them in a strange nether-world between "tourist" and "resident" and the thrill of being a self-sufficient, independent urbanite is muted by the effort it takes to take buses to classes, figure out what to wear, and learn how to fit in.

For those seriously considering city schools, it's a good idea to spend quite a bit of time waling around the campus, exploring surrounding neighbors, and figuring out how to negotiate transportation. The excitement and opportunties available to college students in the city are tremendous - but don't let the bright lights blind you to the realities of daily existence.

Don't worry too much about WHAT you study...

10 Tips About College Major When we get to the question on the Common Application that asks students what their intended course of study is, more often than not they look at me blankly, with no idea how to answer. And that is probably exactly how it should be. With so many fields of study from which to choose, many of which they've had no exposure to, how can a typical 18 year old really know what they want to major in?

More important than the choice of major is how the college student approaches their academic experiences and what skills they gain. If the goal is to get a job upon graduation, most employers are looking for students with strong analytical skills, excellent communication skills, and the ability to self-manage. Students can acquire and develop these skills regardless of their major. And, if they are planning to follow a career that requires specific job-related skills, often those can be learned through internships.

I once heard a parent advise her daughter not to worry about which classes she was taking, but to be sure to sign up for those classes taught by the best professors at her university. She wanted her daughter to be excited about the process of learning, to see what it meant to be passionate about something, and to be taught well. What she learned was secondary to how she learned it.

While students start to feel pressure to declare their majors fairly early in their college careers, consider waiting, explore different classes, learn from the best teachers regardless of what their teaching, and be excited about the process. Possibilities exist that may never have been considered.

You've got mail, and FB, and AIM and...

Study Finds No Link Between Social-Networking Sites and Academic Performance Every now and then an article comes along that is a real head-scratcher, and this piece from the Chronicle of Higher Education wins that honor today. A believer in "distracted attention is poor attention" I'm struggling to figure out how student's grades aren't impacted by spending increasing amounts of time on social media. I try not to be a ludite and, obviously, as a blogger I appreciate the benefits of social media, but I wonder what the study would reveal about students in upper level class, or for those with learning and attentional issues.

It's hard not to be drawn in to the siren call of facebook, twitter, or instant messaging. But isn't it nice to make a break from studying a real break?

Going to college? Bring your passport!

Academic Outcomes of Study Abroad The students we have known who have taken advantage of the opportunities offered at their schools to study abroad have returned with a certain je ne sais quoi. A twinkle in their eye, an air of confidence, a better sense of themselves and what they want from their education all seem to be a part of it. Indeed, they returned changed, and changed for the better. This opportunity to learn how to live in a new culture, communicate in a foreign language, and tackle new challenges creates a unique opportunity for students to see what they are really capable of. When they return, more important than their verbal fluency, understanding of a new culture, or the richness of the new friends they have made is what they have learned about themselves. This study confirms that in addition to all those benefits, students return from their study abroad more focused on their studies.