Diversify

I heard a wonderful update the other day about a VMS alumnus who entered his college career studying engineering and enrolling in Air Force ROTC.  While performing quite well the past two years in everything engineering, this student has been recently lured back to his affinity for languages, a talent that was very evident during his upper school years at VMS.  Studying mechanical engineering coupled with his fast growing proficiency and eventual fluency in Russian is a potent combination. Mind you, he will also graduate as an Air Force officer after completing ROTC in college.  Despite this student being, perhaps, the next VMS alumnus to follow closely with big contributions undoubtedly in his future, I offer you this caveat as it relates to a WSJ article I read, and immediately thereafter, posted in Naviance as recommended reading for both students and parents.

It is no secret that many students  – statistics indicate 50% and upward – change their major or add an additional major of interest while in college.  Also, it is prevalent among younger generation adults to have multiple careers in their lifetime.  These already well-known facts only scratch the surface of Dr. Peter Cappelli’s recent argument: Why Focusing Too Narrowly in College Could Backfire.  I urge you to read the article: http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424127887324139404579016662718868576.

In the meantime, here are some of his take away points to consider while you think critically about your college search and academic declarations:

  • the economy is too unpredictable to determine where jobs will be in abundance;
  • aside from geographic location, price and allure, graduation and job-placement rates are telling of an institution’s commitment to prepare their students well;
  • jobs that are hot now, may not be tomorrow (or when you’ve completed your degree);
  • it may be worse to have the wrong career focus in college than having no career focus because specialized skills often are non-transferable;
  • students who pursue a practical route should wait to declare majors and other specializations until later in their academic career to better align with employment openings;
  • students are most successful when pursuing what they excel in and enjoy.

This post is not an endorsement for any one type of education; I firmly believe that finding your interests and strengths is a journey just as the college search in and of itself is a journey.  And it may just take a journey to diversify an education meaningfully and purposefully to warrant the best results.  With that said, as a product of a traditional liberal arts education myself, I appreciate having been able to major in both a natural science and a performing art, and mingled within my four-year program, a study abroad stint to learn a new language and knowledge independent of my coursework on campus.  In 15 years, my education and degrees have presented many conduits for a variety of professional careers; however, I’m glad I made the choice to be a college counselor.

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