Oh, to be a College Student Today... Can I Get "Re-Do?"

Last week I spent the better part of the week visiting colleges in North Carolina. I found myself on a whirlwind tour of 7 campuses in just over two days, and I would have kept going if I could have. Every time I visit college campuses, I walk away wishing I were a student again.

For those of you out there who, like me, applied to college 15, 20, or more years ago (I'll leave you guessing on my age), let me tell you that the college experience is not what it used to be. Do not try to advise your high schools seniors or juniors based on the knowledge you gained when you went through it. It's a whole new world. Literally and figuratively.College Today

Everything is "global" and "experiential" and "connected" and "passionate" now. I don't think any of these adjectives could have been used to describe the just-over16 years of life I had experienced when I sat down at my typewriter (hey, it was electric!) and completed my college applications. Nor, with the exception of an internship and one semester-long research project with a professor, do they describe the experience I had while I was in college.

College students now are offered an abundance of opportunities to study and work abroad in countries all over the world. More and more, the cost for these experiences is built right into their tuition and fees. Overseas properties in exotic locations are hot commodities. London? Spain? Italy? *Yawn* We're talking about Ecuador and Copenhagen and Kenya now.

But students are not only going to far off places, they are also engaged in the communities in which their colleges reside. Courses in all disciplines and subjects incorporate community-based learning to give students an immediate outlet to apply what they have learned in the classroom while at the same time learning to become conscientious citizens.

Interns don't just do the filing, shadow the employees, and gripe about doing grunt work anymore. They are given projects to dig into and made team-members and asked to analyze data in ways that impact decisions - experiences that were previously reserved for entry-level employees. On campus, students have access to real-time trading and are given university money with which to do it - and they don't lose it all! They usually break even or make money.

This trend is long overdue. Most people learn better when they are allowed to do something rather than just hear it or see it. The world is not divided into subjects and colleges; it is interdisciplinary. Employers don't have the luxuries of time and money to train new hires if they wish to remain competitive in a global economy. It makes sense, of course, to incorporate "real-life" skills and experiences into the education of bright young minds because graduates need to be able to hit the ground running to have even a chance of landing a job in today's work places.

I cannot help but wonder, though, how much of it "sinks in" for these kids - because in many ways - and now more than ever, I believe (that's a topic for another blog) - they are still "kids." How may 17 to 21 year-olds are developmentally ready and able to achieve the levels of focus and introspection that would make these "passionate", "global" experiences truly rich and life-directing? Come to think of it, how many people of any age are sufficiently introspective to make the most of the experiences life has to offer?

And so I humbly submit, that I would like a "re-do" of my college years. I'm sure I can find my passion and my focus somewhere in Australia.

What would you do differently if given the chance for a college "re-do?" Leave a comment below...

Tags: education trends, college, admissions process, applying to college

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