All college majors give students a lot of knowledge, but only a few give students the thought processes to think more clearly. I challenge my students to think more effectively. I believe education is much more powerful if a person learns to think creatively. College admissions boards respect this skill, and they value my students because of it.
Many students move through college without knowing how to use education effectively, and thus leading them to question a degree’s value. I often hear questions from both students and parents such as, “Will this degree lead to a job?” or sometimes, “Why am I studying this if it doesn’t make me happy?”
There’s no real question that a bachelor’s degree has economic benefits over a high school degree alone, as this Brookings Institute report shows. What I find is that people more often question what their son or daughter studies in college. Is their son or daughter studying something that can lead to a job right after they graduate, such as computer science or chemical engineering? Is it something like a social science, which might be useful but doesn’t scream out any specific job skills. Could it perhaps be something like, say the arts?
If you are a parent reading this, then chances are you prefer your son or daughter to have a degree where they can find a job. A college degree is, after all, a qualification that many employers respect.
While finding a job is a worthy objective of a college degree, I challenge my students to know how to create their own job if need be. Forbes magazine cultural writer James Poulos believes that entrepreneurship is the single most effective life skill not taught by most colleges (article here). To illustrate his point, he shows art school graduates, who he believes are often very creative people that do not know how to channel that creative energy into a money-making venture.
Of course, I do not suggest every student goes into the arts and then tries to start his or her own business. Many factors in the student’s personality will determine which career path is the most rewarding for him or her, and still pay bills.
I do believe, though, that an attitude to try anything is still useful, no matter how easily one can find a stable job. Even if a graduate becomes a construction engineer, wouldn’t it be useful for him to find ways to reduce waste and make his day more efficient? Wouldn’t it be useful if all graduates thought of ways to do things more effectively, and to better organize their time? That’s the thinking entrepreneurs have on a daily basis.
I recognize, though, that the life skills I cultivate in my students are not necessarily the only ones colleges do not teach.
What life skill do you feel colleges should teach but do not teach?