Employment Prospects for New College Grads

I just read an encouraging piece from the Dow Jones Newswires which states that 2012 college grads will face improved employment prospects compared with grads from the last few years. The lower national rate of unemployment and the improving economy are thought to be stimulating hiring, although competition is still intense.

College majors with the best hiring prospects:

The hiring outlook was said to be best in the following fields: accounting and finance, engineering, computer science, marketing, education, health care, and social services. This is certainly welcome news.

A well-chosen minor, and an internship can make a difference!

My own advice: college students can further improve their prospects by taking additional coursework (electives or perhaps a minor) in areas that add marketable skills to those associated with their degree, whatever it might be. Examples include foreign language study to the point of relative fluency, grant writing, and web design. Also I can’t stress enough how important it is to complete an internship or two that relates to your academic major while you are attending college. Graduates who can boast real-world experience are miles ahead of their fellow students who only have academic credentials, and occasionally an internship leads to a job offer.

Top Entrepreneurship Programs for Undergrads

Many students interested in collegiate business programs and careers in business these days have an interest in entrepreneurship, which is the creative pursuit of innovation and opportunity in the business world, and a bit different from the traditional business subjects of marketing, management, accounting, etc.

In response, a number of schools have developed and become known for excellent entrepreneurship programs. According to entrepreneur.com, here are 12 of the best in the nation. I have added location and total undergraduate enrollment info:

Top Entrepreneurship Programs

#1 -U of Houston, Houston, TX: 30,688

#2 -Babson College, Babson Park, MA: 2007

#3 – Baylor U, Waco, TX: 12,575

#4 – Syracuse U, Syracuse, NY: 14,201

#5 -U of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA: 17,380

#6 – Washington U, St Louis, MO: 7239

#7 – Brigham Young U, Provo, UT: 30,684

#8 – U of Arizona, Tucson, AR: 30,665

#9 – Northeastern U, Boston, MA: 15,905

#10 – U of Oklahoma, Norman, OK: 20,892

#11 – Temple U, Philadelphia, PA: 27,702

# 12 – U of Dayton, Dayton, OH: 7843

In Colorado, entrepreneurship certificates can be earned in undergraduate business programs at CU-Boulder, Colorado State U, the University of Denver, and Colorado Christian University.

The Economic Worth of College Majors

Penn Office of Admissions

Something that should be attended to as a part of college planning is the student’s choice of major. I disagree that students should feel pressure to make a firm decision before matriculating, but the process should at least be launched in terms of exploration and consideration. There’s a great piece by Jacques Steinberg (author of a fine book on elite college admissions, The Gatekeepers) in the NY Times “The Choice” blog on May 24, 2011, about the relative value of the range of college majors. Referencing a new report by Georgetown University, Steinberg shares the good news, which is that college degrees more than pay for themselves over time, and position bachelors degree holders well ahead of those with high school diplomas in terms of future earnings.

It’s no surprise that some degrees pay off far more than others. At the top of the range for what BA/BS degree holders can command in salary are petroleum engineers and pharmacists. At the bottom are holders of degrees in psychology, early childhood education, and theology.

This information matches what I’ve been saying to students for some time. You should study what you love and what you are suited for (certainly not all are suited to be petroleum engineers!); however, some degrees will require more forethought and initiative on the part of the student than others to lead to a good-paying job. Psych majors (especially counseling psych) will command higher salaries if the student goes on to grad school and achieves a higher-level credential. The pursuit of internships can add greatly to the value of all degrees. Others who wish to major in broad liberal arts subjects (such as philosophy or art) would be well advised to select a more hard-nosed minor that confers a more concrete knowledge base, such as accounting, or computer information systems. Acquiring a pragmatic skill set, whether in the form of a minor or grouping of courses, such as foreign language study, can also add a lot of clout to a degree.

Worthwhile Models: 3+2 Programs

I’ve been excited to see that quite a number of colleges have made special arrangements with other institutions that permit flexibility and cost savings for students.

One great model is the 3+2. This type of set-up can permit a student to attend, for example, a favored liberal arts college for completion of prescribed general education requirements (for a period of three years), and then transfer to another institution for a final two years of intensive, specialized study in the major.  Many liberal arts colleges have established a relationship with larger schools with engineering programs.

Some examples include Beloit College in Wisconsin, which has arrangements with Columbia University and Washington University, St Louis, as well as Kalamazoo College in Michigan, which features arrangements with the University of Michigan and Wash U. There are many more of these to explore and consider. At the end of the prescribed program the student has two degrees: one from the liberal arts college, and one from the engineering program school.

My favorite 3+2 is offered by Stephens College, in Columbia, MO, a historic women’s college. They now offer a partnership with Chatham University in Pittsburgh, PA leading to completion of the MPA (physician’s assistant) graduate degree. This program affords a quality experience at two fine institutions in interesting areas of the country as well as two valuable degrees, with the graduate ready to begin working in her field at the end of five years. What a super concept!


Tips for College Planning: An Interview

Recently I was interviewed online by a writer from Alaska Airlines Magazine. I thought her questions were good and enjoyed answering. Our exchange follows below:

What are some of the most important things that students should consider when deciding where to go to college? Considerations for making a choice vary with the priorities of individual students: institutional reputation, academic selectivity and rigor, geographic region, available programs, traditional vs. alternative campus ethos, and on and on…. Increasingly, given the economy, cost is a factor. Among other things this is fueling enrollment in in-state public schools. One broad factor that I would encourage all students to investigate is the reputation of the school with prospective employers and graduate and professional schools, so they have the assurance of a degree that is truly marketable.

What are common mistakes that students make when trying to pick the right college for themselves? A common mistake is limiting options too quickly. Most students are familiar with colleges near where they live and perhaps the Ivy League and a few other well-known institutions. There are standout colleges of all types all over the U.S., many of which students have never heard of depending on where they live.

Another mistake is assuming that a given school isn’t an option given the “sticker price.” Multiple types of financial aid are still solidly available, and virtually all schools do their own discounting in order to woo desirable students.

How important is it for students to know their majors ahead of time? I have long felt that we do a disservice to 18 and 19 year-olds by expecting them to know their major, especially when 70% of college freshmen are either undecided or change their minds, sometimes multiple times! Most recent high school graduates simply haven’t had enough experience and exposure to make a realistic choice of a major and career path. Thankfully, the majority of colleges have curricular requirements that mandate enrollment in general education courses and electives, giving students as much as a year and a half before they are compelled to declare — while still making real progress toward a degree. In the meantime, there are career counselors and advisors at most schools who can help students narrow their options.

Is there only one right college for students? Absolutely not! With over 2300 four-year colleges in the U.S. there are likely multiple right colleges.  The trick is identifying them and checking them out. This fact, along with the paucity of counselors at many high schools is one of the reasons for the growing profession of independent educational consulting.

How important are gut reactions or first impressions when it comes to campus visits and choosing the right school? I validate the gut check as an important factor, but preferably at the end of a solid visit including a tour, information session, conversations with professors and students, hopefully even an overnight stay in a dorm.

What are some of Pinnacle’s most popular services? College matching (development of a personalized list of potential colleges), essay development and editing, SAT/ACT prep, career assessments/major exploration, and comparative institutional research.

What type of student would benefit most from Pinnacle’s services? Most students would benefit from individualized help tailored to their needs and interests, especially now that the college application process is more complex and competitive than when many parents attended. To get the most out of working with a college planning professional students should be invested in the process and proactive. I enjoy working with all types of students.

Are campus visits important? How can students get the most from a campus visit? A campus visit isn’t absolutely necessary, and may not always be possible, but I think it is advisable. A tour and information session arranged by the admissions office is standard, and many colleges allow prospective students to sit in on a class, converse with faculty members and students, and even stay overnight in a dorm.

How soon should students start thinking about which school is right for them? Serious consideration would ideally begin during the junior year in high school, but I advocate that families begin immersing their kids in thinking about and visiting colleges much earlier in order to establish some perspective. Early visits don’t need to involve the admissions office, and may simply involve walking around the campus, eating at the student union, and/or attending a sporting event or performance of some sort.

Does choosing the right school guarantee success? Nope: students still must attend class, study hard and commit to the process of higher education. In addition, research shows that students who become involved in campus activities are more successful than those who do not. Even a work-study position increases persistence!

Here is the link for the full article: http://alaskaairlines.journalgraphicsdigital.com/Oct10/

Lisa Ransdell, Ph.D.

Pinnacle Education Consulting, Denver, CO

303-635-6620, LRansdell@comcast.net


Must You Know Your Major?

College-bound high school juniors and seniors routinely field two questions from friends and family members: where do you hope to attend, and what major will you declare? Now that many seniors are close to receiving replies to their school applications, the remaining question needlessly causes anxiety for some, and in many cases for their parents.

As a former Director of Academic Advising and Dean of First Year Students, my strong opinion is that most 17 and 18-year olds simply haven’t had sufficient life experience to make a solid choice. Data show that 70% of U.S. college freshmen either don’t know their major upon starting out, or change their major once or even multiple times. Not knowing is therefore the norm.

With the exception of highly sequenced programs, such as engineering and computer science, most students have a great deal of flexibility in their curricular requirements. Those registered for general education courses such as English, math, social and natural sciences, etc, ARE making progress toward graduation equivalent to their peers with declared majors. Between general studies and the electives that most colleges allow for, students at many colleges can progress as far as the mid-point of their sophomore year before being compelled to declare.

Ultimately, some students will fall in love with a subject upon taking a course from an inspiring professor. Others will get a clue from an intriguing internship or volunteer experience. For those who may need help, there are some excellent free sources of assistance available in the form of academic advisors, psychologists and especially, career counselors. Campus career professionals are experienced administrators of assessments that can identify aptitudes and interests and connect these with programs of study.

So, future collegians, enjoy your senior year of high school, but don’t slack off in your performance – colleges do check year-end grades! One thing you need not obsess about for some time is your future major.

Lisa Ransdell, Ph.D. is a part-time college faculty member and educational consultant in the Denver area.  Her website is pinnacle-educ.com.