A student came in this week interested in one of the great, though struggling industries – magazine publishing. This student is quite bright and curious, but I had to caution that the publishing industry is struggling and jobs are scarce in the field. While choosing the right major is important, the student is interested in journalism, I suggested that what is more important is obtaining the right skills and standing out. The student may be able to do that through the journalism major, but that isn’t the only option.
This particular student is interested in fashion magazines. Since Sex and the City many young women dream of heading to NYC to write thrilling articles about fabric, accessories, and trends. That dream is doable, but no major alone is going to produce that result. To even land the internship that leads to that kind of job this student will need experience. She’s landed an internship for the summer, but I also stridently urged her to make a name for herself. With all of the resources on campus for funding, and the world wide web, a fashionista without clips or a web presence is doomed.
Our campus newspaper doesn’t have a fashion writer. I suggested she pitch herself. Maybe she should start a blog, or a podcast. Whatever the method one chooses for distinguishing herself she should know that employers are indeed looking for go-getters. Employers haven’t had training programs for new employees since the 1980s, and especially not in competitive fields. They want people to be ready to go on day one. This reality is not always fair because job seekers then must shoulder huge costs trying to get their foot in the door, but knowing that the market is as it is helps one to plan accordingly.
In choosing a major, and job seeking, the world is almost like seeking out a romantic partner.
- Employers want someone interesting and different, and not just another person like the one they already have or the one they just fired. BE YOURSELF.
- Just like a particular outfit can get you noticed on the quad, so can the great internships or experience get you noticed in a pile of resumes. If you created a job for yourself then even better! You’ve already shown leadership. Continue to amass experiences that fit your interests and the type of work you want to do.
- There is no set formula for snagging the job. An employer likes what they like and there is no guaranteed combination of major or experience that does the trick.
Happy Valentine’s Day!
The research shows over and over again that low-income students do well at “elite” colleges. However, top schools, including the Ivies, keep stating that they do not get applications from these students even if they are highly qualified.
A recent NPR report reemphasized the problem and hypothesized that part of the issue is that low-income students in areas where there isn’t a top performing high school just aren’t being encouraged to push and apply to these schools. You can check out the report here.
In the Washington, D.C. area we have several high schools that are geared toward preparing our varied population to attend college. However, even many of these students, as our own program shows do not necessarily know how to select a list of schools to which they want to apply, and how to prepare a competitive application.
We who work with young people have to encourage them to apply to all types of colleges. Many of these schools will provide a fee waiver for the application if a student reaches out and asks. One of the problems I find is that students are afraid to ask, or do not know to whom to write. We have to teach them to craft professional emails to people in power. This is one of the first lessons we teach in our program.
Another issue is that many times those of us who went to college rely on our own experiences. We have to remember that when we attended we were working with information that was relevant at the time. Just because we didn’t like a particular institution, or it wasn’t affordable to us doesn’t mean that the young people we mentor will have the same experience.
Encourage low-income students with great grades to apply to the schools of their dreams. The schools are waiting for them.
In November we chatted with HBCU Lifestyle founder Garrick Gibson about a variety of subjects including how to deal with being at home on breaks, and adjustment to college. Check out the podcast!
Over the past two Wednesdays I’ve had the pleasure of mixing it up with Risikat Okedeyi, host of The LSP Effect on rockthelflow.com. We’ve been talking about the presidential debates and the various issues that affect the vote including education.
Check out the podcasts below!
Part of my role as an advisor is to work with students interested in applying to graduate school. Graduate school is a very expensive, and time consuming proposition, and in meetings with students I am very honest about with them about the experience.
Recently, a student was not happy with my advice as evidenced by the nastygram, disguised as a thank you note, sent to my office. This student objected to me noting that her grades and grade point average were not up to the standards of the schools in which she is interested.
Sometimes the truth hurts and there is no way around the facts. For competitive doctoral programs, that often only admit 6-8 students, obtaining admission directly out of an undergraduate program with a gpa under a 3.5 and low GRE scores would take a bit of luck. There is no way to artfully explain that, nor do I think it would have been a service to the student to not be straight with her. The graduate school application process alone can cost a minimum of $500 once one considers GRE fees, application fees, and transcript request fees. Furthermore, more and more people are heading to graduate school to hide from the recession. The competition is fierce for anyone.
I’m not sure what the student expected regarding her appointment. Her complaint was that telling her the numbers for graduate school admission was not “constructive.” However, what I do know that providing sound advice, even if it isn’t what the student wants to hear is my job.I do hope that she is accepted at her schools of choice.
Tomorrow another case goes before the Supreme Court of the United States about affirmative action in higher education. It’s been less than a decade since this issue was last taken up by the court in Grutter v. Bollinger where the SCOTUS held up affirmative action in the case of the University of Michigan Law School. It’s unusual that a court takes another case of the same sort so close to its last decision, so everyone in higher education is watching with baited breath.
The University of Texas at Austin already has what is colloquially called a “ten percent plan” in place, which admits students in the top of their class to the university. Ms. Fisher was not admitted to the institution under those circumstances, nor was she admitted as a legacy student. Both her father and sibling both attended UT. The institution has also noted that Ms. Fisher would not have been admitted had affirmative action not been in place. Several institutions and researchers have submitted friends of the court briefs in support of the University of Texas using affirmative action in their admissions process. Their reasoning is that until inequity in educational opportunities are addressed, it is unfair to strike down initiatives meant to redress those inequities.
With so many preferential admissions statuses in higher education it is a wonder that affirmative action continues to be the gripe of choice. Students are admitted to universities for a variety of reasons and “merit” is only one of them. Universities are looking for more than just a class of students who can pass exams. They are looking for well rounded people who can come together to create a campus community that reflects a variety of values. Thus, an excellent cellist, or athlete, or student who made their mark by creating an amazing business venture may be admitted preferentially. Furthermore, many institutions still utilize legacy admissions and have special lists for the children or large donors. Keep in mind that the donor lists are also kept for competitive graduate school admissions. People who can afford it are able to ensure that their child has the best education money can buy regardless of “merit.” And, yet, none of these have recently been challenged all the way to the SCOTUS.
It is easy to pinpoint the student of color you think has taken “your” space on campus, but no student is guaranteed admission to a university, and it is quite presumptuous to think that you as an applicant are owed something. I’m sure Ms. Fisher, who has gone on to Louisiana State University, has received an excellent education. The University of Texas was not meant to be.
This case reminds us what is at stake in our state and federal elections. The next president of the United States may have the opportunity to appoint 3 supreme court justices. Many state legislatures are enacting legislation that would limit the time a student has to earn their degree if they are receiving financial aid even though research shows that often students who are low-income struggle because of finances or life events such as having children.
What happens in the Fisher vs. UTexas will shape higher education, and who has access to it for generations to come. Today is the last day to register to vote in several states and the District of Columbia. Are you vote ready?
I met with a nervous and scared student recently. This student thrives in artistic arenas. However, instead of following her gut and just majoring in theater she was double majoring in a subject in which she had no interest. You could tell that the student had zero interest in the subject through both her body language and her grades! While in my office she was crunched into a ball while talking about the second major, and her grades in the classes were quite different from her stellar marks in theater.
So why was the student torturing herself? She believed the hype. She believed that there are no jobs out there for people in the arts, and she added the second major to boost her chances of getting a job. However, what she didn’t know has tanked her grade point average. First, the second major she undertook requires a graduate degree to even begin to make more money than she could as an artist. Second, the job market for that sector isn’t strong either. Third, there are plenty of theater venues in Washington, D.C. and her time would have been better spent gaining experience than taking on coursework for which she had no zeal.
Fortunately, this student has one-year remaining of her formal undergraduate education, and she came to check-in with her advisor instead of waiting until the last minute to do a graduation review. The lessons I hope students learn from this young lady is that there really is no such thing as backup education. If you aren’t invested in what you’re learning then you simply won’t do well, and low GPAs can make life more challenging than being in the “wrong” major.
Follow your talents.
An article in today’s Chronicle of Higher Ed pointed an every increasing problem in higher education. Community colleges are asked to serve the needs of the many, but the funds are few. Students are being steered away from four-year institutions, but are finding that at the community college level they cannot get into the courses they need to graduate on time.
I’ve never been a believer in the American Dream since it oft calls for pulling oneself up from non-existent bootstraps, and it seems that working class students are being sold a bill of goods once again. We as a nation cannot talk out of both sides of our mouths when it comes to education. Either we are going to fund our public colleges and universities so that students have a chance to improve themselves or we aren’t. It is egregious for a student to need four math courses to graduate and cannot even get into the first one because all of the sections are full .
I believe in community colleges. I’ve taught off and on at two over the past few years. The community college classroom is an interesting mix of people from a variety of backgrounds. Sometimes you may have a room full of military veterans, high school students trying to get a jump on their four-year degrees, recent high school graduates, moms, dads, and anything in between. Each person attends for his or her own reasons, but usually the reasons boil down to them trying to better themselves and their families.
I truly hope that my home state of California finds a way to make right what is happening to their once great higher education system. My father is a self-proclaimed country boy, and when he notes that something isn’t quite right he often says “that dog don’t hunt.” In the case of what our nation is telling our working-class and poor students about their educational opportunities, no dad that dog doesn’t seem to be useful at all.
My birthday is in just about a month, and I hope you’ll help me in supporting low income students! Since the 10th anniversary of my college graduation I have donated my birthday toward raising funds for low-income students at UNC at Chapel Hill, my alma mater. This year I’m reaching a milestone birthday, and my aim is to raise $3500 to celebrate! I’m super excited because the campaign only launched two days ago, and we’re nearly at $600.
You can read more about how I started this journey and how to contribute here. No contribution is too great or too small, so I hope you’ll consider giving!
Thanks in advance,
One of students recently emailed me about an offer he received to join an honor society. The invitation required a $75 to access all of the wonderful networking opportunities the offer touted. The student emailed me to find out whether or not the offer was legitimate, and I’m glad he did.
If you have to pay for the privilege of being honored then it’s not an honor. You are paying for access to an organization. In some cases it’s worth it to join something that has a cost. Many people are members of sororities and fraternities, or join other social clubs that have dues. However, these aforementioned organizations are groups where you are joining a community. They aren’t purporting to give you something if only you’ll fund them.
The pay for membership tactic is similar to the “we’ll honor you, and because of it you should buy our book to see your name in print” tactic. A particular group has been getting people to buy books no one cares about at least since I was a high school student.
Just ask yourself. How prestigious can it be if in order to accept I have to pay?