College students who don’t really know why they’re there are likely to waste their time, go into debt and fail to earn a useful degree. Complete College America is pushing Purpose First, a strategy to help first-year college students “explore interests and careers, make informed choices and hit early benchmarks toward on-time graduation.”
The first year of college is critical, writes Michael T. Nietzel, president emeritus of Missouri State University, in Forbes. Many students, especially those who are the first in their families to attend college, need help setting career goals, choosing a major and understanding job markets. The sooner they choose a purpose and a pathway, the better they’re likely to do.
Often, students are told to spend their first year or two exploring “an elaborate menu of course options,” Nietzel writes. They’re supposed to “find themselves.” Many end up paying for credits that don’t fit their major.
Purpose First calls for “intrusive advising,” he writes. “Most students are default-scheduled into courses well-fitted to a meta-major” (a collection of related disciplines).
. . . many entering students have been advised to take no more than 12 credit hours per semester – allowing them to “get used” to college and not become overloaded. In fact, for both financial and academic reasons, CCA’s advice is to enroll for at least 15 credit hours per semester whenever possible, necessitating more intense academic engagement than typically achieved with lighter loads.
Traditionally, students don’t get any career advising in the first two or three years: Many never visit a career center. Purpose First encourages “early and often” advising, starting in the first semester of the first year.
Braven partners with universities and employers to help first-generation students make the college to career transition, says CEO Aimée Eubanks Davis in a conversation with Rick Hess. “Every year 1.2 million low-income or first-generation college students enter our four-year universities, but only 25 percent of them graduate and land a strong job.”
In a 2015 survey, nine out of 10 students said they’re going to college to improve their job opportunities earnings.
In high schools, “purpose education” tries “not only to help young people figure out which college to attend or what kind of career to pursue but also helps them understand that they have control over their choices, how to ask for help and how to figure out what’s important to them,” writes Molly Fosco on Ozy. “Then, it helps them develop tools to get there.”
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