Re: Choosing a College

College Success Bulletin

The thin and fat envelopes are flying this time of year, and I’m happy for the Class of 2013 kids I’ve been privileged to coach.  Our clients have gotten to a whole range of colleges, from state schools to the most elite colleges in the land.  (No, this is not going to be a braggy message, because, first off, I don’t get any clients “in” to college – they get themselves in, and second, pleeeeeeeeze!  Does anyone care about statements like “98% of our clients got into one of their top 3 choices?”  Is that meaningful?)

But I wanted to talk about how a student should pick a school, not the other way around.

There are 2,700 or so four-year colleges in the country.   Kids on Long Island (and most affluent areas of the country) apply to about 34 of them.

I am not knocking “usual suspect” schools, although plenty of ’em deserve knocking.

My question, one that I wish more college-bound kids would ask, is How well will you help me prepare for the future?

Here’s the fatal flaw behind that question – nobody knows what the hell the future is going to look like!

Seriously, did you know what today would look like five years ago?

Do you know what things will look like in five years?  10?

What kind of jobs, careers, industries, opportunities will be around?

So if we don’t know the future, how can we prepare for it?

By honing our creativity and critical thinking skills.

Do schools do a good job at helping kids develop creativity?  I’d argue that they do the opposite.  I see this with my own kids at the elementary and middle school levels, I see it with others in high schools and, yes, colleges.  Plenty of mistake-correcting, which discourages creativity, if you think about it.  Tons of memorization and regurgitation of facts, standardized, “fill in the bubble” tests, very little writing, discussion, argument-making.

But let me turn to the college question  – how well will [Prestigious U] help a student prepare for the (unknowable) future?

Let me ask you this, are you more likely to learn how to think – i.e learn the right questions to ask – from a school that, because of its tenure system, encourages professors to churn out arcane, obscure articles and other publications that no-one will ever read or cite, and require them to teach only 1-2 classes per semester?  Classes that many professors “endure” as a necessary evil because it takes away from their primary goal, publishing?

These universities – and I’m not referring only to large, land grant public colleges, but to many of the nation’s most prestigious colleges as well – offload the teaching “burden” to graduate students and adjunct professors.  I’m sure that many grad students and adjuncts are great instructors, compared to their PhD’d colleagues, but they don’t have the time or resources to meet with students after class, for example, either because they have to rush off to their next teaching gig, full-time job, or they may not have office space at all!

My vote is for colleges that emphasize teaching by professors, not just publishing.  Professors who are there to teach, not to avoid teaching.

We have a big problem in this country.  It seems like as soon as we innovate something, other countries find a way to make it better and cheaper.   Look at Samsung and Apple, for example.  We must continually innovate to succeed.

The more advanced we get as a society – “Smart” phones, self-driving cars, other technologies that do more stuff for us – the higher premium there will be on innovation, creative thought and critical thinking.

Please think about this when your child chooses a college.

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