Students and Parents Put Too Much Focus On Getting Into College

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Students go to college to get a job, but do nothing while in college to learn the skills they need to get a job!

SAT logoAsk any parents why they want their kid to go to college, and you will hear them unanimously say, “I want my child to be able to get a good job!”

Ask any incoming freshman why he or she is going to college, and you will hear him or her say the same thing.   Studies confirm that fact.  The Higher Education Research Institution (HERI) at UCLA has produced the CIRPS Freshman study for the past 3 decades.  The survey  polls hundreds of thousands of freshman each year.  In their 2012 survey, 88 percent of incoming freshman indicated they were going to college to improve their chances of having successful careers. (That’s up 20% in the past 2 decades.)

However–once students get into college– few invest the time necessary to learn the skills, they need to catapult them into successful careers.  Even though online communities like LinkedIn, Facebook, and others have made it easier than ever to meet alumni, few students use them to reach out to willing, employed alumni for help.

Testing to get into college is the new norm – even though it’s not required!

Here’s why I think students’ and  their parents focus too much on getting into college and too little on preparing to get jobs after college.

I was reading an article in the New York Times about the time and effort prospective students invest in preparing for ACT and SAT testing.   According to the article:

  • 1,666,017 students took the ACT
  • 1,664,479 students took the SAT

The article shared an emerging trend that students are now taking both tests and investing a great deal of time and money to take the tests again to improve their scores.  The author of the article, Tamar Lewin wrote,

“Of this year’s 26,000 applicants to Princeton, 13 percent, or 3,477 students, submitted only ACT scores — up from 2 percent (385 of 17,000 applicants) for fall 2006. And almost 8,000 this year submitted scores from both tests.  (SAT & ACT)”

Preparing for the SAT and ACT is a huge investment, both financially and in time.  To prepare for the 3 1/2 hour SAT test, students will purchase any of a hundred plus books or courses and invest dozens, if not hundreds, of hours in preparation.   Parent pay the $51 test fee, fork over another $30 to $60 for prep books, and some are even willing to spend $400 to $10,000 to help their kids improve their scores.

It’s a big business that has changed the behavior of students heading to college.

A culture has developed and changed everyone’s behavior!

The SAT and ACT tests can be traced way back to the 1900’s when a group of colleges got together to identify deserving students through a shared entrance exam, then called “College Boards”.  The firm College Board has continued to protect and maintain the accuracy of the SAT (Scholastic Aptitude Test).

As more colleges adopted the shared entrance exam, prospective students started seeking help to improve their scores.

By 1945, American universities began relying on standardized tests to measure students’ potentials.  Stanley Kaplan started coaching and tutoring students in the basement of his home.  Stanley knew he could help students improve their scores and started to expand his tutoring program.  By 1975, the Federal Trade Commission concluded that test preparation like that provided by Kaplan helped students raise their test scores and passed legislation to make the admissions process more transparent.

A couple decades later in 1981, John Katzman founded Princeton Review to, “Help students to achieve their aspirations through education.”

Why not a Career Assessment Test?

So with all this effort and time going into the college application process, why hasn’t the culture on campus focused on giving students the skills to get into their first professional jobs?

If parents, students and administrators want to see graduates head into the business world and lead successful careers, why not test to see if the students have the knowledge the organizations that will hire them want them to have?

Why not require them to take Career Access Tests (CATs) to determine if they are job search ready?

A required or recommended CAT would encourage students to focus on investing time in career development while in college and offer companies proof that the college and student are doing more to prepare for their careers, rather than working only to get degrees.

Who’s responsible for this?

Should the CareerBoard that has been providing aptitude testing for over three quarters of a century step in and help colleges and businesses build a standard that will offer proof to parents and their grads  are ready for their campus-to-corporate transitions?

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Don Philabaum
Love to find ways to use technology help more grads and alumni develop successful career strategies.
Don Philabaum
Don Philabaum
Don Philabaum

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