Common Misconceptions of a College Education

Dr. Lisa Ransdell is an independent educational consultant and college counselor who helps students and their families stay on top of college planning. Lisa’s practice is grounded in 27 years of college teaching and 20 years in higher education administration. She constantly tours, reads, and does professional development in order to give clients the most up-to-date info.

I liked many of the points made in a recent commencement speech at Michigan State University by Roger Ferguson, President and CEO of TIAA-CREF, the retirement-investment firm used by a majority of the nation’s college professors and staff members. Ferguson, who is an attorney and former Federal Reserve Board Chairman, highlighted three common misconceptions of a college education for the benefit of those graduating.

First, he challenged the idea that the main purpose of attending college is to get a job and maximize earnings as much as possible. By way of illustrating what can happen when people and companies place the pursuit of money above all else, Ferguson cited the ongoing financial crisis and the long-term fallout that can occur when greed prevails in human enterprise.

Second, Ferguson took issue with the notion of “climbing a career ladder”, observing that many of those who are most successful in the U.S. at present are willing to operate as if on a career climbing wall, where one must shift horizontally, perhaps briefly descent before ascending once again, and carefully read the terrain and strategize in order to keep moving and progressing.

Finally, Ferguson debunked the idea that graduation marks the end of education. He made a strong case for the importance of lifelong learning, and observed that this learning doesn’t necessarily take place in a classroom environment.

I thought this was a solid graduation speech with some great nuggets for graduates and their families. Not all commencement speeches hit the mark, but this one seemed short (a good thing I think!), and truly sweet. Congratulations high school and college graduates of 2011, including some wonderful past clients.  May the world be your oyster!


The Circle of Life … in College Planning

At this time of year I am acutely aware of cycles and the continuity in life in general as winter threatens to drag on forever (we know it won’t!), but also in my profession of college planning.  This year’s seniors are mostly done applying; some have received early responses and others await those fat or thin envelopes in the mail with their news of joy or disappointment. I am also following up with last year’s seniors to hear how the first term of college went and how that chosen college is panning out. Finally, I am receiving inquiries from some of this year’s crop of high school junior parents who are beginning to realize that it just might be helpful to solicit some extra assistance with the whole complicated, intimidating process that is about to take on a life of its own.

I love every bit of the cycle, and take great pleasure in helping to explain and simplify the various processes involved in college planning. Guiding students and parents to opportunities and resources that expand the joy and reduce the angst is what it’s all about for me.