Bad College Advice: It’s Out There

By Dean Tsouvalas
StudentAdvisor.com Editor-in-Chief

college adviceAdmissions outreach is in full swing right now — so there’s a good chance your local high school gym is being converted into a college fair filled with anxious students and overwhelmed parents. You make the rounds for quick greetings with college reps, leave with bagfuls of catalogs and paperwork, and sometimes with more questions than answers.

Parents we talk to at these fairs tell us they feel overwhelmed. It’s easy to see why, as the conversations come and go in such a short amount of time that it can be easy to forget to make sure any of it even makes sense.

Beware of Rotten Advice

As a parent and Editor-in-Chief of StudentAdvisor I strive to make sure that all of the free college search resources we provide in our magazines and on our site are not only helpful but honestly accurate. Often I’ll check out some of this printed material that students and parents take home.  Some of these so-called guides that are not from trusted colleges are just plain garbage.

I found one this week that made me yell and jump around the office. It was promoted as a “Fall 2011 college search guide” and after opening the pages I quickly realized it was filled with full-page ads (everyone’s got to make a living) but very, very little content.

What caught my eye was a graphic called the “The College Finder” for students to answer a question and go to the next point in the chart. Among the questions:

  • Are you a high achieving, self-motivated person?
  • Do you prefer structure of the freedom to be creative?
  • Do you enjoy working with your hands?

Hardly the insightful tool for making a life-changing decision.

And then this loaded question and answer set me off:
Do you like solving complex problems with new, creative solutions?
If NO – it says “look into a liberal arts degree.”

I am not making this up. Seriously. So if someone likes solving complex problems with new creative solutions they should avoid a liberal arts degree?  This is insulting and aggravating on multiple levels –this is an example of the misleading and rotten information that is freely distributed to students, parents and school counselors.

In Defense of Liberal Arts

Yes, I went to a liberal arts college and earned a liberal arts degree, but to put me and my collegic peers in a bucket like that is outrageous, insulting and infuriating. Life is full of complex problems and a liberal arts education shouldn’t be viewed as a “cop out” for students who want nothing to do with them. Statements like this increase the divide in higher education between those in the liberal arts and those in technical fields of study.

One of the most complex problems high school students have to face is choosing a college and figuring out what they’d like to persue in their adult lives. For many of my fellow liberal arts grads, their college experience gave them the opportunities to become the CEOs, army officers, lawyers, politicians, educators, and scientists that they are today.

Don’t just take my word for it: A recent employer survey that the National Association of Colleges and Employers released indicates that workplaces most value these three skills that a liberal arts education can impart: teamwork, analytical reasoning, and communication.

What complex problems have ever been solved without those three things?

Do you have a bad college advice horror story? Please feel free to share yours in the comments.

Photo:  Inkyhack

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