TO: New and returning colleges students
FROM: The “media”
RE: Your future.
Dear consumer of Higher Education, two words: Defy them.
People seem to have you all figured out.
ACT, the folks who test to see if you’re ready for advanced class work, say you’re not. According to its annual report, 31 percent of high school graduates weren’t ready for any college work in English, science, math or reading, and the other 69 percent met standards in at least one of the subjects.
Not only does ACT say you’re not ready to study at the college level, you’re studying the wrong stuff, showing a pronounced lack of interest in the five fastest-growing industries most likely to be hunting for candidates with college experience.
On the other hand, a new survey by the consulting firm Millennial Branding and beyond.com, says your generation has a habit of job-hopping, preferring to look for the employer matching your career goals rather than acquiesce to whatever goals a company might set or opportunities it might offer. It’s no longer about company advancement, it’s about building skills, doing what’s right for self and family, and work flexibility.
The state and federal departments of education, in the meantime, all but admitted they bollixed your education when the feds granted a state waiver from the academic goals of No Child Left Behind, the 2001 federal law that required you to take all those standardized reading and math tests in elementary and high school, and insisted you collectively had to get better until all of you scored “proficient” or better by next year.
Now the state and feds are saying it’s more important the kids back in your elementary and high school alma maters just get better each year, and be prepared for college or a career when they graduate. Oops.
Then there’s President Barack Obama’s bus tour touting plans to make college more affordable and assure you get a bigger bang for your educational buck. So far, it feels more like warm and fuzzies for future generations than hard facts sure to help you.
These and many others have you figured out, or know what you need, or what you should and shouldn’t want, or should and shouldn’t study, or decided to change things after you already set your path and scheduled this year’s coursework without consulting you.
So defy them.
That doesn’t mean deliberately making choices contrary to their predictions for the sake of being contrary. It means exceed their expectations, confound their analyses, outdo anything they anticipate.
If you feel the way they handled your education under No Child Left Behind was wrong, give input to those making decisions on how to correct the errors. They didn’t ask, but you don’t have to wait.
If you’re confident in your field of study and plotted future, take a hard-nosed look at what you plan to do compared to what the industry prognosticators say you should do, and either switch plans or take extra steps to make sure you succeed against their expectations.
As to the cost and value of your education, spend smart, work hard and push for the best from your professors without disrespecting them. When push comes to shove, the cost and value of your education lies in your hands, not Obama’s.
Don’t ignore the predictions and statistics. But use them as sign posts, not as goal posts.