But How Will It Look On My Resume?

Statistics show people don’t tend to read any particular blog for very long. I’m not jumping from blog to blog, I’m reading fewer, which begs the question, why read this or any other blog? One common thread in the few blogs I read regularly is the authors link to interesting and insightful writing that I wouldn’t otherwise come across.

The best bloggers are connoisseurs of some specialized content and curators who provide an invaluable service in the Age of Information Overload—they help focus people’s attention.I try to do that, but my statistics reveal that few readers follow my links meaning posts like this probably don’t work that well. If I knew how to change that I would.

Starting for real now. An email arrives from an ace college roommate, a successful psychotherapist specializing in adolescent development. His 12th grade daughter has been admitted to two highly selective colleges and is conflicted about which will look better on her resume. Dad’s equally torn about where she should go. What does the college professor think?

The college professor can’t get past the fact that the daughter is worried about her resume. I wrote back that the schools’ respective prestige was within the margin of error and that the only thing that matters is whether she builds lasting relationships and develops interpersonal and intellectual skills that cannot be easily automated.

Her family enjoys far greater economic security than 90-95% of people. I don’t understand her thinking, but I know that if she is pre-occupied with her economic future, it’s no surprise that anxiety disorders among adolescents are at an all-time high.

I suspect something deeper is at work in this college decision-making case study. Something spiritual. Cue David Brooks, who wrote this essay in Sunday’s New York Times. It’s Brooks at his best. Lots of self-righteous readers savage him, for in essence, not being a Democrat. How dare a Republican reflect on what’s most meaningful in life. I wonder what it’s like to have one’s politics and daily life in permanent, perfect alignment.

Brooks is scheduled to discuss his new book, The Road to Character, on the Diane Rehm show Thursday, April 16th at 11et.

How to Help Young Graduates Flourish

High school and college graduation approaches. How will the graduates you know fare in the “real world”?

Historically, parents assumed their children would live more economically secure, comfortable, and enjoyable lives than themselves. Now, as a result of heightened global economic competition, the loss of manufacturing jobs, and higher education and health care inflation, many parents worry about whether their new graduates will live as well as them.

Apart from the vagaries of the national and global economy, and health care and higher education inflation, what will determine how the new graduates fare? Many believe people’s success is a result of their initiative, ability, and work ethic. Others highlight the importance of family background, gender, and ethnicity. I believe it’s both/and. 

But there’s one other indispensable variable—the vision young graduates have of their future. More specifically, how positive that vision is. Can they picture themselves educated, healthy, doing meaningful work, fulfilled? I wish I could interview all four hundred graduates at Olympia High School to discover patterns and themes in their personal visions. “Describe your 25 year old self,” I’d start. Initially at least, many would stare blankly at me, but with follow up questions and disciplined listening, I’d learn a lot.

Parents worry. Incessantly. Will their children be able to afford to continue their education and graduate college? Will they find a job that pays a livable wage? Will they have medical benefits? Are they going to manage money wisely? Will they avoid the pitfalls of addiction? Will they enjoy good mental and physical health? Will they make friends upon which they can depend? Will they be okay? Understandably, many young people internalize their parents’ anxiety.

One thing determines whether a young person enters the “real world” with a positive vision of their future—whether the adults they interact with on a daily basis transmit hope for the future. If young graduates are surrounded by people who live as if “things are getting better” the more likely they are to flourish.

This isn’t just positive thinking bullshit. What does it mean to live as if things are getting better? It means denying one self day-to-day in the interest of the future vision. People with positive visions get up and go to work and save money. They eat healthily. They exercise. Their careful with their money, meaning they spend most of it on essentials. They take care of their possessions. They care for the environment by picking up trash, recycling, and reducing their energy consumption. They volunteer their time to make others’ lives better. They live their day-to-day lives mindful of their children’s and grandchildren’s lives. And other people’s children and grandchildren.

Some young graduates are surrounded by adults—older siblings, parents, grandparents, teachers, coaches, youth pastors, neighbors—with positive visions of a better future. Adults who unwittingly teach delayed gratification. Those young grads can’t help but get caught up in the positive momentum. Their grades and test scores aren’t that important. Or how prestigious their college. They’ll be okay.

Others are surrounded by adults living day-to-day without any vision for a better future. They don’t have a feel for delayed gratification, and therefore, can’t help but get caught up in the negative momentum. They’ll struggle.

Give a graduate the best gift possible this year, model a positive vision of the future.

 

Notes from the College Search

Spent Friday with the Good Wife and Sixteen visiting a private liberal arts college in Spokane, Washington—not the one with the very good Division 1 basketball team. The one with a very good Division 3 basketball team.

My main objective was not to embarrass Second Born by not saying or doing anything to bring myself attention. I was doing really well until mid-day. Early on we learned about the “Three Littles” that every student strives to accomplish. . . 1) get hit by a frisbee; 2) accidentally break a dish in the cafeteria; and 3) catch a “virgin” pine cone—meaning one that hasn’t hit the ground. In the middle of the campus tour, I faked catching a pine cone by droping to the rear, picking one up of the ground, then exclaiming to a few peeps around me, “Look, I did it. I caught a virgin pine cone.” Turned out more than a few people heard. Everyone liked my head fake except Golden Locks.

Thought one. A prediction. Higher education, like every other institution, is changing and will continue to change. However, the pace of change will be slower than the “experts” anticipate. Online “education”, or the cynic in me prefers, “internet coursework”, will continue to challenge the traditional “brick and mortar” model of schooling. Hybrid programs will become more common. But based on Friday’s sample of one, private, read pricey, residential liberal arts education is alive and well. “Spokane” University is thriving despite a relatively small endowment. It’s becoming more selective, it’s improving its already nice facilities, and it feels like there is a lot of positive momentum.

Thought two. A paradox. Many private liberal arts colleges offer financial aid packages that average 30-40% of the tuition and room and board “list price”. This coupled with Washington State’s public universities having to increase tuition 15% annually into the foreseeable future, means many families of high achieving students will find privates more affordable going forward. “Spokane” University has four merit-based scholarship tiers. The higher your grade point average and SAT or ACT score, the greater your financial aid. The second tier is a 3.7 and 1880 on the SAT if I remember correctly. That’s worth something like $15,000 each year. Any high schooler planning on going to college should think long and hard about taking any part-time job that might negatively impact their grades. You’d have to scoop ice-cream part-time at Baskin Robins for five years to make $15,000.

Thought three. Confirmation of a core belief. I believe economic anxiety explains most behavior these days. Especially, but not exclusively, middle and upper middle class parents of K-12 students. One of the day’s events was a panel discussion with four “Spokane” University students answering questions. Of the dozen or so questions asked during the hour, eleven were asked by parents. The only explanation I could think of for that was deep seated anxiety about their children’s futures. I wanted to tell the lady with red hair, who asked a few different questions, to “shut the hell up,” but I had already embarrassed TSwift once. Incredibly aggravating. Free parenting advice—at least try letting your son, who looked like a grown man to me, find his own way.

I took one picture. No, not of the beavers I saw on my run along the edge of the over flowing Spokane River, not of the baby ducklings, and not of the loquacious woman with red hair.

Dig the smart mix-use design

Finally, most importantly, make sure whatever college you decide to attend has plexiglass backboards.