Thursday, February 16, 2012

An Old Story About A Continuous Problem

The article below speaks of an experiment conducted a handful of years ago, but seeing it shared by a student on Facebook made me reconsider it in another light:

I've been thinking a lot lately about how to advise Undeclared/Exploratory Students (UES) in these uncertain economic times. Yes, I said it--curse me if you will for admitting that it's OK to think about an investment in one's (or one's children's) education as an actual investment, but it is legitimate to consider. You'll find no academic more convinced in the transformative power of a university education than I--I transformed my own life with my two degrees and believe everyone should have an equal opportunity to do so. But with the skyrocketing costs of university education, and the ever-growing disparity between rich and poor in this country, not only can many students not afford college, but many others are confusing it for job training and an opportunity to earn higher wages (that last statement is half true, after all).

So where does this leave us in a conversation about UES, you ask? simple, with this question. How to engage them in conversations about what really matters in college when the world around them is telling them everything from the truths like each additional degree you add typically increases your earning potential by $10k to $20k per year, to the inaccuracies that you need to go into a STEM field, Medicine, or Law to get a decent job (read Daniel Pink: "A Whole New Mind" to have this one debunked).

I'll be damned if I think I can tell you the answer to it, I wrote this blog post in order to spur conversation...

So, discuss.


  1. I struggle to address this every single day. I try to explain that finding a job or career is not just about subject knowledge but skills and abilities. Can you communicate? Can you interpret, analyze, and manipulate information? Can you take charge of a situation? Can you work well with others in small and large groups? Can you follow instructions? Can you be trusted to operate within specified guidelines and policies? These are the gains from an undergraduate degree in ANY discipline. This is why we have general education requirements.

  2. I am really drawn to Mitchell, Levin, & Krumboltz (1999) and their Planned Happenstance Theory. In a world where circumstances are always changing, being armed with a degree (and all the skills that accompany one, as Anne points out) and prepared to transform "unplanned events into opportunities for learning," and "generate, recognize, and incorporate chance events into their career development" can leave students less stressed about major selection and more focused on how involvement and networking can benefit their career path.