It was drilled into my head many times: “Get good grades, go to college, and you’ll surely find a job.” As a rigid overachiever, I took my teachers and elders at their word: I excelled in academics, completed my coursework with honors, and graduated from a university. But the job never came.

I felt that I had been lied to from the beginning. On the one hand, our society tells us that high school grades, test scores, and extracurricular activities will equate to a college scholarship. I received nothing.

Then they tell us that college grades and honors will earn you a job. Wrong yet again. How many years did I waste studying and preparing for my future?

The truth is that the academic world is much more complicated than it was twenty years ago. While more students are applying themselves to their studies, the quality of our education is being called into question. Employers no longer consider our degree to be enough:

In the past, recruiters and hiring managers looked at resumes and put too much stock into where a candidate previously worked or went to school…Recently, they have been shifting the focus to hiring driven candidates who have the determination to learn the skills they need…

-Susan Vitale, iCIMS (www.shrm.org)

What does this mean?

Somewhere, our education went wrong.

 

What About It?

In college, we often sit in large lecture halls where we dispassionately take notes on never ending topics. We go back to our dorm rooms or apartments, memorize this information in time for a test, and never question how it applies or why it matters.

By the end of the semester, we have memorized loads of new information. To be honest, it’s actually quite impressive. When asked to apply it, we have no idea what to do.

College is about saying the right thing at the right time. In the employment world, however, information is useless unless it can be used in the right context. Employers don’t care how much we know unless it is directly applicable.

That is where many of my professors failed me. They taught me a lot – don’t get me wrong – but they forgot the element of real-world application. Why does this matter? When does this matter? Who does this matter to? In what professions will this matter?

 

We’re Really Learning?

While some classes encourage rote memorization of facts, other classes simply focus on indoctrination.

During my second year at the university, I made the mistake of taking a Women’s Psychology class. Assuming it would teach…I don’t know…the psychology of women, I gave it a go. As a woman myself, I thought it would be interesting to learn about the ways in which females process information differently from their male counterparts.

That’s not at all what it was about. My professor spent the entire time talking about feminism, the ways men mistreat women, and how conservatives screwed it up. My goal here is not to determine the validity of feminism. I’m simply saying that a naïve second-year student was tricked into listening to a semester-long political rant.

In a creative writing class, my teacher blatantly accused Republicans of being closet racists. He also made explicit comments about Mitt Romney’s wife and was later suspended from the university. Of course, he was reinstated very quickly.

No wonder employers doubt the quality of our education; we are learning politics rather than academic information!

Perhaps this lack of focus in the classroom also helps to explain the rise in online learning. Students want to cut the nonsense and just do the work. But that’s a conversation for another day.

 

Everyone Is Doing It

The largest mistake I made was assuming that my undergraduate degree was somehow impressive. The truth is that many adults are deciding to invest in their education these days.

In the past, receiving a Bachelor’s degree would have equated to a prestigious position in the workplace. A woman with a Bachelor’s degree was even more impressive. Today, over 33% of “Americans 25 or older said they had completed a bachelor’s degree or higher.” Compare that to just under 5% in 1940. (thehill.com).

My degree is no longer a competitive edge. That is why I must shoot a bit higher in order to stand out among my educated peers. Hence my decision to go back for a Master’s degree.

The truth is that today’s college education is not as attractive to employers as it once was. They have become unimpressed with what we bring to the table. Until an educational reform grabs our professors by the reins, this trend will likely continue.

I know, that’s not what you wanted to hear. But it’s the bitter truth.

Good luck, fellow students.