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Four Things They Should Teach You In College - But Don't

Aug 21, 2009 Jennifer Williamson, Distance Education.org Columnist | 1 Comments

When you go to college, you’ll learn a great deal about life. You’ll learn how to research, write research papers, manage your time and meet deadlines. You’ll also be given opportunities to pursue your passions, experiment and find out where your passions are.  If you’re a traditional college student, you’ll also learn how to live on your own—sort of.

For most traditional college students, college provides their first opportunity to live away from home. But they’re still in a sheltered environment, and many of the realities of life—and keys to success—need to be learned on the ground after graduation. Here are a few things most schools don’t teach their students.

How to deal with money

With the average college student graduating with over $20,000 in student loan debt in 2007-2008, it’s amazing schools ignore this issue as much as they do. There should be seminars on how to deal with debt, how to read and understand contract terms, and how to reduce debt while in college. This should be paired with individual debt counseling to help students choose the best terms on student loans they have to open during college, adjust to tuition increases, and prepare for how their loan situation will change once they graduate.

But that’s not all students should learn in school. The average school should teach students how to set budgets, rent apartments, buy cars, and make other big financial decisions on an informed basis.  Students should learn how to tell how much they need to live on, how to negotiate salaries and raises, and how to read financial statements.

How to turn a passion into a career

Beyond just finding a job when we get out of college—and some colleges’ alumni networks and career centers are better than others—there should be some emphasis not only on how to improve your skills and knowledge in your chosen field—whether that’s finance or art history scholarship—but how to turn your dreams into a career.

Some degree programs translate better into careers than others. Students going into law, medicine or technology may not need much help, but what about the student who wants to be a painter, novelist or entrepreneur? For many, the path to a truly satisfying career isn’t as clear. Colleges should offer more hands-on classes on how to create a career from your art, forge a career path in a specialized humanities niche, or start a new business.

Many students—particularly those in the humanities—wind up in office positions they never wanted because they can’t figure out how to translate a passion for English literature or sculpture into financial success. These classes would take away years of time spent learning how to make a living from one’s passion, and would help students hit the ground running, creating a career that excites them as soon as they graduate.

How to get health insurance

In an ideal situation, each student would go directly from graduation to a lucrative position that offers health insurance, with no or very little gaps in coverage.  But for millions of students, that lucrative job can be months or even years in coming—and the insurance they’ve been getting from their parents or school will evaporate soon after they graduate.

There are some health insurance options for students to plan for coverage after they graduate, but the options are confusing and varied. Colleges could help by providing classes that help students navigate health insurance options, understand their health care plans, and develop a plan for getting health insurance back after they graduate.

How to network

Some people know how to network instinctively. For others, it’s a struggle. Students should realize that no matter how introverted they are, they need to stop looking at networking as “schmoozing” and start seeing it as a necessary tool that will help them get ahead in life.

Education should absolutely be a goal in itself—and many colleges are adept at graduating open-minded, broadly educated students who know how to think critically and have extensive knowledge of their chosen fields.  But there are some practical gaps in college education.  With these additions to most degree programs, college students should be able to graduate better prepared to deal with any economic situation that might be waiting for them.

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Comments:

@RedelJones Over a year ago

Wonderful list, excellent points. - thanks

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