- a professor who made them excited about learning
- professors who cared about them as a person
- a mentor who encouraged them to pursue their goals and dreams
- worked on a long-term project
- had a job or internship where they applied what they were learning
- were extremely involved in extra-curricular activities
Is a college degree worth it? The good news is that for most college graduates the answer is: “yes.” But only if they made the most of it. For those who didn’t—which is a whopping 25% of all graduates—it’s a very different answer. This finding doesn’t in any way devalue higher education. But it does force us all to get serious about how we maximize the opportunity of higher education.
It starts with changing what we believe. If we believe a college degree is an automatic ticket to a better career and life, we fail. Students, parents, higher education staff and faculty, and employers need to work hard to ensure we are collectively making the most of it. If we believe the only measure of success is salary, we fail. There is so much more value to college than what we are systematically measuring now. We ought to pay careful attention to these less traditional measures and the things that correlate with them.
If we are concerned about graduates’ feelings of preparedness for the real world, their engagement in their work, their overall well-being and their on-time graduation rates, then we ought to redesign what the requirements of graduation entail. If it’s merely course credits and exams—without any of the crucial emotional support and experiential learning—we fail. The good news is we have an idea of what the winning formula looks like. Now we need to help parents and students understand how to make the most of college, and redesign accreditation and higher education values, models, and reward systems accordingly.
See how “Big Six” experiences are linked to key college, work and life outcomes: