Updated: May 17
College is a cultural right of passage. We hope high schoolers, upon entering college as eager adolescents, will emerge as capable "adult-ish" college graduates.
We hope our college grads are ready to take on the world. This includes gaining career-oriented, self-sustaining jobs, living on their own, and becoming full-fledged members of adult society. We want them to be joyful and have purpose. College is synonymous with "adulting," or the process of becoming an adult. While new college graduates may not be ready to declare adult victory, they are certainly much closer than when they graduated high school.
Our College Hope
For college, we hope the students learn. This includes the development of significant critical thinking skills, study habits, and otherwise learning to learn. But there is certainly more value to the college experience. Living in the college social community is fun! College helps students develop emotionally. This includes better handling change and managing expectations. They become more emotionally intelligent. They learn to make better, longer-lasting relationships. Many of their good college friends will become lifelong friends and/or become part of their professional network. They may meet their future spouse. College helps develop citizenship and a sense of community. College helps students develop important life skills, like preparing food and other life necessities, living a healthy lifestyle, maintaining personal security, keeping commitments, and handling money.
This is all part of adulting. This is all part of college.
Our College Challenge
However, college success is not guaranteed. A common challenge today is that students may not be ready for college. A lack of readiness creates college success risk.
At one end of the “not ready” college risk spectrum are fragile students. Fragile students generally arrive from otherwise supportive families. By appearances, these students look great. They took the right classes, got the right grades, and participated in the right clubs. However, they may lack resilience skills to handle typical college-life challenges. They are like fancy porcelain teacups. They look great on the outside but they are easy to break. For some well-meaning families, adolescence has become a parent-scaffolded “failure is not an option” program. However, without some failure, it is hard to develop resilience to challenge. For the same reason - without lifting weights - it is hard to build our body’s strength.
At the other end of the “not ready” risk spectrum are students from families unable to provide experience-based college preparation support. They are often first-generation college students. They are more likely from low to moderate-income households. They may see college as a way up the economic success ladder. They may also see college as a way to unlock other important experiential opportunities, such as studying abroad. First-generation students may arise from remarkable families and circumstances. However, a lack of family experience-based college preparation support may still make college success more challenging.
Please note: College challenges are complex and these risks are not mutually exclusive. It is certainly possible a student may have both fragile and preparatory challenges. Additionally, though first-generation parents may lack college experience, they certainly may offer other important family support, like emotional support and encouragement. They may also offer other work and life experiences helping the students quickly mature. Finally, many colleges now offer assistance for first-generation students. While it does not eliminate the risks associated with preparatory challenges, college assistance programs should help reduce the attendant risks.
The high schooler’s college decision is a significant and potentially risk-burdened gateway. Fragility or a lack of experience-based support creates college decision challenges when opening the door to the best college direction.
Our College Challenge is also impacted by future employer college hiring practices. Our College Hope intentions may somewhat diverge from how employers view recent college graduates. For an employer making new hire decisions, college is viewed as a means to deliver a "work-ready" resource. Employers evaluate those potential resources based on the "3 Cs:"
intellectual Competence → ability and willingness to learn
Conscientiousness → resilient and a hard worker
Collaborativeness → team player
Employers and college recruiters rely on the student's GPA to signal employability. The GPA is a signal helping the recruiter understand a recruit’s “3 Cs”-related skills and abilities. Employers will differ somewhat in how far they look beyond the GPA. Additional information may be used to fine-tune recruiting group characteristics and as tie-breakers for comparing recruits. The interview is a means to validate the GPA signal. While the GPA may not be the only recruiting criteria, it is often the anchoring objective criteria to baseline a recruiter’s judgment.
There are about 4,000 colleges and universities in the United States. Our belief is ALL colleges, with few exceptions, provide a learning environment capable of delivering Our College Hope. Be that as it may, for many students starting college, they either:
Do not finish college -> leading to no GPA signal,
- OR -
Graduate college with lower academic performance -> leading to a weak GPA signal.
Given high college costs, our goal should be to avoid these two potential outcomes.
The College Journey
The College Journey and Beyond is an article series for overcoming college challenges and getting the most of your college experience. The College Journey will help you clarify the path to making the best college decision. We also discuss transitioning from college and building a strong career foundation. The transition from adolescence to adulthood involves multiple decisions. Our articles provide insights and tools to help you make the best decisions!
Our articles are written and curated by personal finance, college recruiting, college coaching, and career experts. Our series is divided into 4 sections, roughly based on life stages:
High School Student
Career Foundation and beyond
The College Journey series is practical. Our objective is to help you navigate a not always clear college system. Our goal is to help you graduate, with as little debt as practical, with a useful major, a strong GPA signal, and with a good career direction. These articles are "bite-sized." You may read them in order, like a curriculum. Alternatively, individual articles may be read when needed. Each article is self-contained.
We wish you the very best. You Can Do It!
High School Students
10. College Success!
Career and Beyond