Why Ask Why in the College Search Process?

By Rick Zomer (Guest Contributor)

The college search process can often feel overwhelming and confusing. To make it even more complicated, what if students and parents are focusing on the wrong questions? High school juniors and seniors can become consumed with figuring out what institution they’ll attend after completing high school. Parents, teachers, guidance counselors and friends often contribute to this pressure by focusing on where a college or university is located geographically, or where graduates from a given institution end up getting jobs. But, by spending the majority of their college search process focused on the question of where, there is often little time devoted to asking an equally significant question: why go to college?

The simple answer is that a college education is often seen as necessary for success in today’s world. As a result the primary focus of students and parents today is usually what major or program an institution offers, and how that degree can lead to a successful career. While this is a logical approach, it’s important to remember that the career aspirations of a high school junior or senior can change dramatically once they arrive on a college campus and start taking classes. The number of college students who switch their major one or more times before completing their undergraduate degree highlights this reality – it’s around 50%!

Rather than having “tunnel vision” in regard to a major and career, the question “why go to college?” should be part of a broader discussion. Since the average working adult spends approximately 45-50 hours a week in their place of employment, it’s actually more important for high school students to consider how higher education will prepare them for the 118-123 hours each week when they won’t be in the office or working from home. College provides opportunities for individuals to shape personal interests, form commitments to community service, and provides the ability to build and maintain social relationships. These skills are developed through several factors like connecting with faculty and staff, forming new peer friendships, joining a campus club, or serving a community organization.

The opportunity to explore these and other aspects of college life outside the classroom, and the potential benefits that come from this, are often excluded from the criteria used to select an institution.  For many students it seems as though college life outside the classroom doesn’t have anything to do with their education. However, since an individual’s life involves more than the amount of time they spend working, it seems that higher education should prepare our students for more than just a career.

Why go to college? High school students and their families should consider an institution for more than just the offering of a specific major and the likelihood of employment after receiving their degree. But of equal importance, they should consider how these institutions prepare students not only to make a good living, but also equip them to live a good life.

About Rick

Rick Zomer is a college search consultant. He works with high school juniors and seniors to identify their interests, skills, academic abilities, and personal experiences and then uses that information to inform their college search process. He can be reached at rickzomerconsulting@gmail.com or you can visit rickzomerconsulting.com for more information. Rick Zomer is not affiliated with Cambridge.

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