Did you see the news today that Obama plans to rank schools and tie federal aid to the ranking? Hell yes! The better the schools, the more financial aid they get. Hallelujah, now someone’s thinking! Why should poorly-ranked schools (schools that have high drop out rates, high post-graduate unemployment rates) get funding? It’s akin to throwing money down the toilet.
Now I want to talk about what to look for when picking a college, if that is the correct path. In a future post, I will get to my belief that people do not need to go to college to be successful. People are wired to do exactly what is mainstream, which is why people won’t take the time to think about other options, i.e., alternatives that may very well be more meaningful, profitable, and successful than simply doing what everyone else does.
What to look for when picking a college:
First of all, parents should not be picking which college their kids go to. If your kid wants to go to college, your rugrat better be doing the research! Parents should be sitting on their laurels and not lifting a finger. When kids have narrowed down their choices, they should present to their parents the pros and cons of each school and ask for advice. But parents should not be doing the homework! If high school seniors can stay out late, drink alcohol, smoke, and potentially conceive children of their own, they can surely conduct their own college research.
As for picking the right school, what metric are we solving for? Are we looking for a college with a lot of history? Do you care about a robust and active alumni? Does the sports program give you goose bumps? Are you trying to find the school with the perfect cultural fit? No. No. No. No.
Let me repeat my answer to the above questions. NO! You are not looking to go to the same school that your grandpa went to. You are not looking for a school that has the cutest mascot. You are not looking for a school that has a lofty endowment. You need to zero in on one thing.
Why do you go to college? Tell me your answer. I’ll give you a minute to comment before reading on.
[TAKE 60 SECONDS OR LESS TO COMMENT ON WHY YOU GO TO COLLEGE]
If you want to go to college because you want to have a great life experience, then go sail around the world.
If you want to go to college because you want to play professional basketball, then go play professional basketball in China.
If you want to go to college because you want to meet lots of single people and find a spouse, then save yourself a lot of money and sign up for Match.com.
If you want to go to college because you think it’s the thing to do, then I urge you to think about better options that are available to you before going into a shitload of debt.
Let me tell you the reason why you should be going to college. You are going to college because you genuinely believe it will lead to a successful career. What does that mean having a successful career? It means having a job when you graduate from college! So what are you looking for when you are researching schools? You’re looking for this: Percentage of students who are employed 3 months after graduation.
This metric should be in U.S. News & World Report’s rankings for top schools. I can’t tell because I’m not a subscriber but I know they have this for graduate schools. It’s also the most important question you should ask when visiting colleges. Not: Tell me about the student body, tell me about your culture, tell me about your sports teams!
It’s all about career success and employment. If the schools can’t give you a good answer, then move on, it’s not a school you should be considering. You are going to college because it will lead to great things, first and foremost, a job that will pay the bills once you graduate. Look for schools that have successful career counseling and placement services. Grill alumni and ask them about their experience and whether the school assisted in job placement. More than ever, choosing a college is one of the most important investments you will ever make. Don’t make the decision lightly.
Here are other posts in the college series: