Monday, November 16, 2015

Flipping the College Decision Making Paradigm

This article was written by Dr. Diane Hollmes Blg Series Higher Ed and Post Secondary Learning and shared by our Cardinal Counseling newsletter recently.  As an educator, I see this mistake often!

Ask any adult, regardless of their education level, to recount how they approached the three choices:

  • Major
  • College
  • Career
Ask them to describe, in order, which they chose first, second and finally last!

They will probably tell you that the first thing they chose was the college they wanted to attend. They might have picked a parent's alma mater, a fun school, the one as far away from their parents as possible, or the one by the ociean or in a big city. After choosing a college, most settle next on a major, but usually not until they have attended for a couple of semesters. That choice is too often driven by what they were interested in at that time, the requirement by the college that it was 'time' to choose in order to begin division classes, or maybe even coaxed by a best friend to 'major together.'

Finally, somewhere near or even after graduation, if they made it that far, they picked their career, and embarked onto the job market, expecting to get hired. In today's economy that is a rude awakening for students and parents alike. Today, 8.5% of college graduates are unemployed and 16.8% are underemployed one year after graduation, according to The Economic Policy Institute in Washington, D.C.

Your final question, particularly if your intervewee has been out of school for many decades: "Do you think graduating high school students today make the same choices in the same order?" The answer is a resounding yes.

Then ask them, as self-aware, mature adults today, what the selection order should have been. The answer is shocking in its simplicity and it only takes moments for the person questioned to come up with the answer. Career first, major second, and college third. The order makes sense. Your career dictates what maojor to pursue, which in turn defines which colleges are appropriate. It is an ah-ha moment for most. Now they get it, but for many it's too late.

The problem isn't that students are not going to college; the problem is that they are not finishing. They are not finishing often because they find out the don't like their major or don't see the point of further educatoin, they lose interst, and then decide to 'figure it out later.' President Obama set a goal of the U.S. having the highest percentage of college graduates in the world by 2020. How do we get there? Start career planning earlier.

Career planning connot start in the junior year of college. The research is clear: Students who enter college with an informed declared major are far more likely to graduate (by double), than those who wander through the maze of educational choices.