New College Landscape: Modern Education for a Modern Career

by Anna Feldman, GenFKD

There’s no question that the modern career landscape for new college graduates has drastically changed since 50 years ago. The skillset now needed to succeed after college is radically different, but universities’ program structures and educational goals have remained much the same, creating an unfulfilled student need.

Time for an update

Students are still attending college in droves, but are now finding that degree programs stop short of offering them the 21st century skills and social capital they need to succeed after college. Many students now want the same modern skills that employers want, plus the social capital that comes from developing leadership and entrepreneurship skills, coupled with real world experience.

In a series of first-hand conversations with students, we found that keeping up with these 21st century needs has led students to take on extracurricular opportunities that they believe will fill this gap and help them navigate the postgraduate world.

This behavior indicates that students are looking for more than just a degree from their university, however, the guidance from institutions when it comes to extracurriculars varies greatly. Students cited spending significant time testing activities through trial-and-error or finding their niche through personal recommendations: leading to unequal choice and outcomes for these same students.

We’ve contended that universities owe it to students to provide a modern, broad-reaching curriculum to meet that need, rather than leaving it to students to sort out themselves.

Listening to students

Last month, the GenFKD team embarked on a mini “listening tour,” hitting the road to drop by five of our 26 GenFKD fellows programs across North Carolina and Colorado, asking students about their college experience and plans after graduating.

During these conversations, students expressed entrepreneurial goals, from a desire to potentially start their own business to an interest in public speaking and presentation skills. They agreed on the need to highlight work experience and build a resume of experience beyond academic knowledge.

When asked about career services, students time and time again cited business school programs as the in-school route perhaps most engaged with pushing career skills and resources, job listings, and networking opportunities to their students.

However, often only declared business majors seemed to benefit from an exclusive engagement with their own career center, while the greater student population shared a separate set of career services. The commonly cited option for the student body at-large is the quintessential school-wide activity fair that had students weeding through hundreds of options with little advice.

Ambitious students hoping to gain more skills and experience were being forced to seek out resources and seem to be making it up as they go, taking on more and more activities outside of their coursework. Across campuses, students agreed on the importance of being involved in at least one outside commitment.

The overwhelming majority were devoting significant time to outside activities, from special interest clubs, to mentorship and teaching initiatives, to community service, to internships and off and on-campus jobs, to leadership roles in…

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