Wednesday, September 06, 2006

College Crisis: 7 Tips for Maxing out Degrees

Common wisdom declares that a degree doesn't matter after you land your first job. The truth is that most of my education about finance was delivered on the job as I chatted up traders, analysts and portfolio managers on Wall Street.

Therefore, this piece in my email box caught my eye. The release also features 7 tips for making the most of a college degree. Great insights about the real value of grades, internships and travel.

"Is College a Risky Investment?

By Andrew Hewitt and Luc d'Abadie

Once you get accepted into college and go on to get a degree you’re set for life, right? Wrong!

Only 53 percent of students who start college will actually graduate and a whopping 70 percent of those who do graduate end up unhappy and disillusioned in their career within the first five years. This is the College Crisis.

A Degree: Downpayment on Success

Unfortunately, a college degree is no longer an instant ticket to success. If you want your education to lead to abundant career opportunities, financial independence and fulfillment, then pay close attention to the following 7 strategies.

They are essential for avoiding the College Crisis and ensuring you a spot among the students who actually graduate and love what they do. For most people, college is the biggest investment of their lives. You can guarantee an excellent return on your investment by making these 7 strategies part of your college curriculum.

7 Tips for Getting the Most from a Degree

1. Get the grades you need, then move on to what’s really important,

As difficult as it may be to believe, a high GPA is not directly correlated with post college success. Stanford University published a study in 2003 that revealed GPA ranked 11th on the list of what employers look for when hiring graduates.

Grades are important, but what really matters to employers is your ability to communicate, organize, work in teams … among other skills that simply can’t be developed by memorizing a textbook. Here is the rule of thumb: get the grades you need so you don’t forego opportunities in your field of interest, but once you have that minimum grade level, venture outside the classroom where you can put theory into practice and develop the skills employers really want.

2. Discover what fires you up

The reason 70 percent of graduates are unhappy in their careers is because they speed through college and default into a career without taking time to discover if it’s something they truly enjoy.

Unfortunately, you’re not going to find a Passion 101 class on your college campus. Take time to focus on finding a career you’re passionate about—make it your number one priority! A great place to start is doing a personality profile like Myers Briggs or doing an online career assessment like the free activity found at

3. Build an all-star team

The best way to predict your future is to envision the future of the five people you spend the most time with. Who are these five people in your life? Do they share your values and support your dreams? Will they be where you want to be 10 years from now? Through your college years you will consciously or unconsciously develop a core group of friends. Be aware of who you spend your time with. If you want all-star results you’re going to need an all-star team to support and encourage you on your journey.

4. Venture beyond the classroom walls

It is extracurricular activities like student clubs, student government, volunteering and sports that allow you to gain the real world skills employers want. These skills cannot be taught in a classroom; you must venture beyond the classroom walls. Avoid the ‘too cool for school’ syndrome. Get involved on campus so you can make the contacts and gain the skills that will put job offers on your plate and great opportunities in your pocket.

5. Re-focus each semester

What do 3 percent of Yale students do that lead them to more success and bigger bank accounts than the other 97 percent combined? The answer is they have clearly defined and written goals. It’s easy to get sucked into the college routine and forget your main reasons for being there. Setting goals each semester will help you re-focus regularly so you stay on track and make the most of your college investment. Goals act as stepping stones that take you from where you are to where you want to be and are the ultimate weapon against procrastination. Set goals each semester and reap the rewards of being in the 3 percent of your graduating class.

6. Get your passport stamped

The benefits you will gain from traveling abroad are too extensive to list. Understanding new cultures and languages, expanding your comfort zone, making friends across the world, having a ton of fun and gaining an enlightened perspective of what you want to do with your life are just a few. You’ll be hard pressed to find someone who spent a semester or two abroad and doesn’t think it was the best experience of his or her life.

The number one regret of graduates is not taking advantage of study abroad programs. Don’t become one of them. Visit the Study Abroad office on your campus or search online to find exciting student exchange opportunities.

7. Do at least three internships

Most students complete one internship. Many will do two internships. But it’s the students who do three or four internships who gain the most valuable work experience, establish excellent contacts and gain crystal clarity on what career they want to pursue. As a student you have a unique four to five year window of opportunity to test drive careers and find one that will get you out of bed in the morning. Doing at least three test drives (internships) will ensure you get on the road to your dream job with the skills needed to accelerate ahead of the pack.

Although the large majority of students who start college will not graduate or enjoy the career it prepares them for, a select few have found a way to make college the best investment of their lives. They clarify what career they want to pursue, develop the real-world skills employers want, build lasting relationships with like-minded friends and stretch their comfort level to include amazing experiences they will cherish forever. These students are the inspiration behind these 7 strategies and are the ones who have proved they work. Use these strategies yourself so can you ensure college is the best investment of your life.

By Andrew Hewitt and Luc d'Abadie, co-authors of The Power of Focus for College Students and educators for Trump University. For more information, visit them at Focused Student


Lobo said...

Good suggestions. You can find an organized approach to learning how to study at

It has materials for students from Jr./Middle school thru university - it's worth looking at

Blue said...

This is an interesting article to me, as I'm still not 100% certain I want to be a chemical engineer(ing major - naturally, there are other things I could do with the degree).

Unfortunately, numbers 1 and 6 contradict each other for me - my GPA is passing, and I haven't failed a class, but it isn't high enough to qualify for the study abroad program for engineers.