College to Career: The Great Divide

 

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Large group of students writing in notebooks.

Source: Huffington Post

Jodi Weiss

President of EverythingSmart | Educator | Author

College is meant to be an extremely beneficial time in a student’s life, and typically it is. Ideally, the college experience fosters learning, helps students to master skills, expand as individuals, and nurtures their areas of interest. These days, though, the cost of tuition, textbooks, and living expenses pose a debate — is college worth it, or should students skip it and pursue full-time employment after high school?

One thing is clear: data shows that college graduates earn more than high school graduates — roughly $17,000 a year more according to Pew Research Centre. A bachelor’s degree is a price of admission when it comes to obtaining a better job. But here’s where it gets tricky — throughout the college experience, is anyone talking to students, let alone preparing them for what they will encounter in thesebetter jobs? According to a recent survey by CareerBuilder, while college students appear eager to enter the workplace, some employers are concerned that new college grads may not be ready for the real world.

The College Discrepancy
Across college campuses, professors assign papers, tests, presentations, all of which play a key role in learning, retention, and academic development. But are they teaching students how to identify and fine-tune their skills, providing them with meaningful information about industries and job functions? Are they teaching students how to explore and educate themselves on careers? Is anyone asking students what they envision their after-college lives to consist of? How they want to impact their communities? What type of work energizes them? Are professors providing information on what it takes to be an employee, or an entrepreneur? Are students being exposed to mentors to help them navigate the road ahead?

Sure, students can find a lot of career information and resources online. There are templates to make resumes, guides on what to wear to an interview, and tips on how to prepare, even quick assessments to uncover their top ten careers. But students struggle to identify their skills and are not clear on how their skills translate to jobs. They don’t know how to figure out what they want to do. You can learn a lot online, but I believe that students are more invested when they have a one-on-one advisor who helps them to define their aspirations, pinpoint their strengths, target career goals, and create an action plan.

I believe that the goal of education is to instill a love of learning in students and to prepare and equip them with skills to help them to succeed. Middle school helps them to prepare for high school. And high school helps them to prepare for college. But then what? A one-semester freshman class on careers is not the answer. A career office which students visit a few times throughout their college experience is not enough. Students need to plot their career roadmaps throughout their four years of college — it needs to be part of the daily conversation and part of every college course. Professors should be equipped to make a connection between what students learn in the classroom and its relevancy in the world outside of the classroom. Internships or work programs should be an integral part of the college experience. To study biomedicine for four years of college only to discover during a senior year internship that it’s not for you, is years of wasted time and money. Internships early on in the college experience may help students to choose the right course of study. Professors need to look up from the textbooks and assignments and start a conversation about what comes after college. If we adhere to the data that students with college degrees get better jobs, we cannot ignore the world of work. If we ask students to pay exorbitant tuition, we should be equipping them for life beyond the college campus.

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