We have all seen the tons of advertisements for colleges these days. Some talk about how wonderful the campus is or try to appeal to a prospective student's busy lifestyle but only a few seem to hone in on what I and others know to be the true purpose of a degree. Perhaps we are stuck in the past but that purpose, most of the time, is to get a job.
After all, why would millions of people year after year get themselves in debt up to their eyeballs if not for the prospect of securing a viable future where their earnings are more than enough to repay those student loans and then some?
Obviously if your last name is Trump or you are the next LeBron James, none of this applies to you. For pretty much everyone else, listen up.
I'm here to break the news that job recruiters in this tough economic environment don't care if the food in the dorm is organic, the quad is state of the art, or if the institution provided the flexibility required for your lifestyle.
They want to see results in the form of a tough academic course load and grades to match it. This is still their top means of gauging your potential for success.
There are a range of options for today's students. Yet too often the focus seems to be on what feels right for (usually) an 18-year-old and not what the job world will be demanding of them four (or more) years later.
I write this from the personal experience of forgoing the school that appealed to my true passion at the time (art/design) to attend one that had more practical applications based on the advice (read: insistence) of my dad.
Did I make the right decision? It depends on who you ask. From my perspective, it has turned out to be the perfect choice.
For those about to enter college or parents focused on helping their kids get ready for college, here are some insights to keep in mind when deciding on where to go to. These tips are especially helpful if you agree the ultimate college goal is a job.
1.) Know before you go. Job recruiters are in the catbird seat given market conditions. While it's illegal to discriminate based on race, sex, age and other criteria, recruiters do make judgments on the school attended and how that degree was earned. I think students excited about online courses and virtual campuses should consider if that format of education may put them at disadvantage or provide a leg up in four years when they are job hunting.
Online degrees seem to be especially viable for those currently employed and looking to move up the ladder by adding to their credentials. If you are entering college and exploring a virtual format, an alternative to 100 percent online would be a traditional institution that offers some online courses, so you get the best of both worlds. After all, online learning is only going to be a bigger and bigger part of our world and the ability to navigate this type of experience is important.
2.) 2+2=? Community college students who ultimately want to obtain a four-year degree need to keep in mind that some recruiters might perceive their two-year credits as less valuable. I meet bright, ambitious students from community colleges all the time but they need to be prepared for the old-school recruiter they might encounter. These recruiters don't understand what today's community college experience is really like, so the important thing for these students is to keep their grades at the highest level, especially as emerging research shows potential weaknesses in some community colleges.
Always getting top grades at their community college will help students make the successful transfer to a four-year college and beat back any thinking from future employers that the two-year degree was not rigorous enough. The ability to further distinguish themselves by being accepted into an honors college within the institution or campus affiliated honors organizations will also help.
3.) Move along. Today's young people probably don't know Glenn Close from her role in Fatal Attraction. It's about a woman who can't accept what life gives her. I urge students not to go the Glenn Close stalker route. If your school of choice has put you on a wait list, stop sending cookies and daily emails to the admissions office. Don't waste your time and efforts -- spend that energy on moving toward the next open door. Getting in this habit will definitely prepare you for the job hunting days ahead.
4.) A 4.0 isn't enough. I've heard excellent professors tell students over and over again to "get their heads out of their books." Of course good grades are important but so are the soft skills of networking and leadership development. Campuses are rich environments for joining organizations that can help members in ways beyond the books. These are parts of the college experience that often give students the extra boost they need when applying for jobs.
So enjoy the football games, adventures in studies and late nights that are all in the college mix. Choose the school that's right for you. Just don't forget to factor into the equation the ultimate goal after graduation: getting a job.