Last week U.S. News and World Report’s September 2010 issue came out ranking the country’s best Colleges and Universities. For those who have students who are moving in that direction, I’d encourage you to buy a copy and leave it on the kitchen table!
A college education is still worth it! Don’t let your kids tell you about Bill Gates, who dropped out of school. After all, it was his network at Harvard that eventually came with him to build Microsoft. The evidence shows that college grads are making more money and those with advanced degrees make even more. It is getting more expensive to go though, and the game of getting into schools is more complex not only from an admissions perspective, but from a financing perspective as well. Get on it early. The articles share several resources for funding an education that did not exist 5 years ago. Minimize the debt you use to finish school. Schools are committed to attracting a diverse set of students so don’t fear the tuition until you understand the average discounts available as outlined in the magazine. The recession has hit many state schools hard, so ask a lot of questions about the number of students in the classroom and the use of student teachers.
Networking will enable you to find alumni, understand the quality of a program, or meet key folks in the admissions or finance office in order to get the best possible advice. It will also give you an inside line if you meet a department chair or somebody influential. Separate yourself from the crowd! While the article made several references to the importance of a University beyond the books, it only scratched the surface of the importance of a school’s network. First, it is likely that you will graduate and live in some proximity to your University so pick wisely. Look at the GDP in the area and growth prospects. Your network won’t serve you as well if you have move across the country to get a job. Second, network in college…with a vengeance! If you are at a top University, you are surrounded by talent. Establish those relationships and friendships early and they won’t be strangers in 20 years!
Networking for Life. As one of my students once said “ start today and don’t ever stop.”