Recently, an article titled “Just 40% of college graduates think college got them ready for a career” grabbed my attention.
In an online survey of 1,360 US college students in March and April of 2016, the education company McGraw-Hill and the analytics firm Hanover Research found that only four out of every 10 seniors graduating in the class of 2016 feel their college experience has helped them get ready for a career.
This number also reflected the lack of intentionality among the college student population today. Most students just handle what is thrown in front of them instead of consciously decide what do they want and how to get there. Most people just go with the flow in terms of going to class, attending club meetings, and trying to get a good job. Sadly, the data clearly shows that this approach rarely gives students what they are looking for.
On the other hand, having clear outcomes or being intentional is a habit shared by top performers. Based on my interviews and research, the NO.1 question successful entrepreneurs recommend to college students is “What do you want from college?”
It seems to be a simple question, but most students do not ask themselves this question. Or they do not use this question to re-focus themselves frequently enough.
I was a somewhat intentional about my education in college. I actively tried to learn from the best in different fields via seminars, conferences, books, interviews, and etc. However, one morning, in the middle of my Junior year, I realized I’d wasted 70% of my time in college. On that morning, I was inspired by a list of audacious goals of my mentor who is a successful entrepreneur and multimillionaire. So I got serious about creating a clear list of goals. After I made my list, I realized that only about 10% of what I learned in my classes (liberal arts, business, and marketing) are relevant to my goals. Yet, I spent the vast majority of my time procrastinating, completing, or stressing over school-related work. As a result, I created excuses for not accomplishing meaningful things like interning, eating well, or connecting with friends or mentors. This artificial and illogical stress also negatively influenced my extra-curricular activities. I have had countless weekends that are spent “working” on school and club projects that I couldn’t even remember. All I knew was that I was “too busy” to relax, have fun, or go check out the many amazing national museums two miles from Georgetown. Of the time I spent in college, only about 30% of my time was spent working toward my goals. The extra-curricular activities, seminars, time management skills, and cool people I’ve connected with makeup 20% of time well spent. 10% of my time was learning useful things from classes. The majority of my time was spent doing things that I don’t remember. After having this realization, I started laughing. I don’t know why, but it is kind of hilarious to realize how silly I have been about my choices and how off base I was.
“Well,” I told myself, “the upside is at least I have the awareness now!” As a result, I changed my schedule drastically to allow substantial time every day to learn the best marketing and business materials, to consume information that feeds my mind, to train my body, and to live more consciously. I took control of my life by changing the present to create the future I want.
How do you avoid a similar story? Decide what you want and reflect frequently to see if you are on track.
Identifying what you want to learn is key. Pick classes that are aligned with that. For every class you take, including the mandatory ones, list out the top three things you want to learn from the course or professor. A good way to think about this is if you were to write the syllabus, what exactly you would want to learn. Do not settle until you actually learn those things.
Now, I invite you to write down the top five outcomes you want from college.