As Academics, What are We Teaching Our Daughters About Education?

Once upon a time, the story we told our children went something like this…

Work REALLY hard in school… Get a college degree… Get married, have kids and buy a house… work REALLY hard and get a promotion… achieve the white picket fence and upper middle class status… go on a yearly vacation… secure great benefits and a pension… and you’ll be SET FOR LIFE…

Parents told this to their children. Children went over this with their friends. The fight to get into Honors, Gifted and AP classes raged… and the college admissions process at 17 or 18 became the “This is going to make or break the rest of my life!” trauma it was…

Only… that was a fairy tale, a lie far too many people bought into… and now we are still feeding this lie to our children (especially our daughters) by trying to prove to them why they NEED a college degree and why they MUST get a college education in order to be happy and financially secure.

Would you like to know the truth?

College is one piece of a very large puzzle called the rest of your life… and it’s a small piece compared to the other major life questions you need to answer before determining how to leverage college properly (and you can absolutely leverage college to secure a much bigger win than you would’ve had without it but you have to know how in advance).

The problem?

We’re still operating in a higher education environment where academics (professors) are telling students that “This degree is going to set you up for life.” As a former female academic, it’s high time that we (I’m talking to female academics here) prepare our girls (daughters, sisters, nieces) for the REAL world they’re going to live in over the next 20 years.

And how can we prepare them?

By telling them the truth… Here are 5 truths that we, as female academics, need to start telling our girls:

  1. A degree is nice. Experience is king. During the course of a college degree program, internships need to be the #1 priority (landing great ones, connecting with people at key organizations, finding jobs that link to future professional opportunities). Experience + degree = a WIN.
  2. Forget about leaning in; lead up. Drive every experience, course, and job as a way to position yourself to lead up. Whether it’s a student organization, your current job, or a volunteer/church opportunity, establishing yourself as a leader AND being given the title and official authority as a leader are key. It’s not enough to “help” out behind the scenes. Do the work and get the credit.
  3. Nobody’s going to cut you a break so develop your strength by not cutting yourself any. Be harder on yourself (in terms of work ethic and productivity) than anyone else can possibly be and you’ll develop a personal standard of
  4. Be a trail blazer, not a pushover. Playing ‘nice’ will put you last. Better to be assertive and called a bitch than say ‘Sure’ and be seen as a human doormat.
  5. Start your own business (the sooner, the better). The best and most powerful way to the overall life you want (the work-life harmony, the paycheck, and the financial freedom) will ALWAYS come in starting, building, and running your own company. If you want 100% freedom, it’s got to be 100% you in your own business. If you choose to work for someone else, know that you made a choice… and live with the consequences of that choice.

Now you know the truth. Never say someone didn’t tell you…

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Kassandra Vaughn is an author, writer’s coach and podcaster originally from Danbury, Connecticut. She holds a B.A. in Sociology from Vassar College, an MBA in Human Resource Management from Auburn University, and an M.Ed in Instructional Design from Western Governors University. She lives in the beautiful state of Utah.

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