Tailoring College to Fit the Needs of Different Students

Each student attends college for different reasons, so why not make the luxurious opportunity worthwhile by catering every individual’s needs?

By: Iris Torres

Higher education has a different meaning depending on who you ask. 48 year-old Alison sees higher education as important in order to achieve success: “if you do not pursue higher education then you are unlikely to get a job .For example, college can be seen as a ticket towards the American Dream: graduate, get a good paying job, settle down, and feel the fruits of your labor as retirement approaches. ” For 21-year-old Randall Goosby, a violinist at Juilliard, higher education is “necessary.” Mischa Stratenwerth, a 26-year-old German exchange student at Binghamton, sees higher education as “learning how to help you solve problems.” Not only is college important to “elevate you higher, beyond what you may learn in your own domain” as 29-year old Trever Mitchell, graduate of Valdosta State University, explains, but higher education is also an investment. For 19-year old Sara Nason, a student at New York University’s Gallatin School of Individualized Study, “higher education allows individuals to explore their intellectual peripheries with like-minded individuals.”

College can provide a number of resources that connect their students to their definition of success, and an institution can serve as a meeting place for different types of students; from innovative individuals, to future educators, musicians, and entrepreneurs. But not every college is perfect, as some students have different passions and ideas that they yearn to make a reality. Some students transfer or graduate with different goals, others want to pursue entrepreneurship but aren’t quite sure what that career entails.

“You should feel compelled to learn about starting your own business.”

Entrepreneurship is different from being self-employed. The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD.org) defines self-employment as employees who work for themselves, whereas entrepreneurs operate their own business or businesses. 19-year old Wayne, a theater major (acting track) at Fordham University, has plans to be an entrepreneur. He wants to open his own agency where he can partner with marketers and advertisers. Wayne also intends to open a non-profit artistic school because “with working on Broadway, there’s always someone signing your checks. If I can start my own non-profit, I can add people who look like me, who come from the same circumstances as I do, at a better or higher rate, cause I can do it on my own time or at my own expense, and whatever consequence that may come with. I don’t have to rely on someone else…You should feel compelled to learn about starting your own business.”

“Everything is built to put us into the mindset of where we’re working for somebody.”

Trevor Mitchell felt like college didn’t fully prepare or encourage him to pursue entrepreneurship because “everything is built to put us into the mindset of where we’re working for somebody.” He majored in marketing and now works for a startup. Eventually, he intends on being an entrepreneur, but he hasn’t found the time to fully commit to his dreams. In terms of a college setting, he explains that students “learned how to collaborate and work on a deadline when that’s not always necessarily a requirement for building your own business.”

At Fordham University, 20-year old Josie felt like her college limited her to one field. She transfered after one year because the university “wasn’t giving me the opportunity” due to Fordham’s large core cirriculumn. She explains, “they push you to do certain classes like philosophy. I just wanna study what I wanna study.” Colleges have to do better at supporting creative thinkers like Josie. The Seattle native majored in dance at Fordham then transferred to Queens College, where she is a neuroscience and Psychology double major. Josie isn’t necessarily interested in starting her own business, but doing her own research: “I’m interested studying dance and how it can be used as therapy for neurological disorders like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.” Some colleges have to do better at understanding that students like Josie, who have two different passions with a desire to pursue both, exist, and that’s acceptable (and feasible). Accommodating creative minds will only better a student’s college experience. Supporting and understanding innovative minds in a college setting can, perhaps, give them the confidence to pursue a road less taken. An institution’s adjustment to their studies may also shape more millennipreneurs.

Not every student goes to college with the mindset of working for a large corporation–there is a growing trend of millennials pursuing entrepreneurship

All universities should present their students with programs such as Impact Entrepreneurship Initiative (IEI). Not every student goes to college with the mindset of working for a large corporation–there is a growing trend of millennials pursuing entrepreneurship. Fortune.com reported the growth of “Millennipreneurs” in the workforce: “[at] 20 to 35 years old, they’re starting more companies, managing bigger staffs, and targeting higher profits than their baby boomer predecessors.” The graphic below (IBM, 2014) also proves that compared to Generation X and the Baby Boomers, more millennials are striving to start their own business:

Source: https://hbr.org/2016/04/what-do-millennials-really-want-at-work

Brianda Quiñones, a graduate student at Milano School of International Affairs, Management, and Urban Policy, is one out of the growing millennipreneurs. At 23, Quiñones graduated with her political science degree and planned to go to law school. But after working at various non-profits, she changed her career and wanted to focus on “social good instead of money.” Currently, she majors in nonprofit management and hopes to start her own business, or “work with a business that aligns with my goals and visions.” On top of being a student, Quiñones is the development director at ResistX.org. The non-profit organization develops push notifications such as daily emails and texts for New York City protests, and is currently being expanded to Washington DC and Dallas. The expansion entails having more people sending out notifications and running an action program there.

ResistX.org also intends on growing to states such as North Carolina and Texas, “that are not normally known for organizing protests,” says Quiñones. I met Quiñones at the The Impact Entrepreneurship Venture Lab Information Session, a 12-week impact entrepreneurship initiative (IEI) that strives to support people to launch social ventures. This also includes creating change within existing organizations, and will help upperclass and graduate level students bring their businesses to life by granting them access to funds and mentorship.

“It’s really quite difficult to go against the grain and follow your own idea to make a business of it.”

Sara Nason is a 19-year old student at New York University’s Gallatin School of Individualized Study, where she is pursuing a concentration in Political Engagement and Attachment Theory. She is also is the Founder and CEO of ResistX.org. When asked if entrepreneurship is encouraged in higher education, she references her educational experience, specifically with liberal arts: “it’s really quite difficult to go against the grain and follow your own idea to make a business of it. I’ve actually found that a lot of educational experiences are antithetical to creating your own business — going against the grain in school isn’t wholly welcomed.”

Institutions must understand the needs of their students, especially when their career choice seems to be frowned upon, or give the students the impression that their goal is unrealistic. She continues to state, “I think that a lot of standard higher education helps you work for someone else. If you’re in an alternative program, like Gallatin, you have more of an ability to deviate from the standard path, but I definitely think a lot of programs aren’t set up to allow you to create what you want and to be your own boss from the get-go.”

Millennialpreneurs are on the rise, whether they are CEO’s already such as Nason, or striving towards entrepreneurship like Wayne and Mitchell, institutions have to cater to their students. College enrollment is both a privilege and a luxury, especially if college attendance is rare in your neighborhood. Students also leave college for a number of reasons, as Forbes.com reported. Rather than having students fit into one set curriculum, as Josie felt during her time at Fordham, initiatives have to be taken in order for each college student to graduate from their institution ready with the confidence succeed. Nason felt like she had some “support” from professors at Gallatin, but they “were supportive of the idea but didn’t provide resources to actually act on the idea. I had to do a lot of digging myself.” Programs like IEI, access to better resources, and a diverse curriculum are small options that give students opportunity to make a choice.

After hearing from such different thinkers hailing from several institutions, it is clear that different colleges educate their diverse students in a myriad of ways. Such education meets the standards of the students, while others do not. “No one’s really ready for innovation and they don’t encourage you to explore more than one thing,” explains Josie. Given the luxury of college, institutions have to support the needs of all thinkers, from those who want to start their own business, to those who have dreams of working as a teacher, or a Broadway performer.