By Christie Barnes
ExcerptsFrom the Preface
Every school district in the US, and education systems across the world, are moving in new directions driven by poor college outcomes and a need to fill great, high-paying jobs in newly invented growth fields. Asian and European countries now make career pathways a policy to get every single person entering the workforce into an upper-middle-class salaried job in a high-growth business or industry. The information, the tools, and the opportunities are available in America too. No one will say college-for-all isn’t a success because everyone needs higher education/college! College is excellent, but it has to be the right path to college with the right courses—not an elite college as a one-size-fits-all guarantee to a top career. So, uninformed as to the complicated nuances of “the best college,” many parents approach college as if it were 1999, or even 1969
This book has become more than just another “how to get into an elite college” book. My book is a news story, a history of change, a discussion of the future of work. But primarily it is a guide, full of solutions to problems that some do not realize exist. About 80 percent of parents are missing crucial information their students need. This is the Technology Age, and old rules don’t apply. Parents and their teens at each economic level are using the wrong information.
College (higher education) is necessary, but with today’s worker having seven to eleven entirely different careers, college is no longer “one four-year degree” to prepare for one job for life, because technology destroys and creates jobs at exponentially increasing speed. And we can’t exactly do seven to eleven bachelor’s degrees for the seven to eleven careers. We need to plan college differently.
College admissions guides, usually sponsored by the selective college industry, are still saying that there are two choices: one four-year college education, 16 What Every Parent Needs to Know About College Admissions meaning higher salaries, and a high school education, meaning lower salaries. And usually those guides focus on ages twenty-five to sixty-five, or thirty-five to sixty-five, and not twenty to thirty-five—Technology Age workers. A sixty-fiveyear- old probably did have one degree and one job, the forty-five-year-old, one or two careers. Now we are in the Technology Age—a gig economy, accelerated technological change, six-month agile planning as careers can change that fast. College is vital but requires different planning.
In fairness to our high school’s post grad expert—who is one of the nation’s top college admissions experts—he spoke the truth, but we parents heard what we wanted to hear. He oversaw sessions at the high school about new real opportunities, new curriculum, “best” colleges. These got an audience of fifteen or twenty in a school of nearly four thousand. He held “highly selective college” information sessions, and these got audiences of over five hundred parents of juniors. And, though both he and the principal told these hundreds of parents that entrance to “elite” colleges carried worse odds than winning the lottery—“Apply, but don’t plan on admission”—their teens applied. On decision day, many turned up in the principal’s office crying—virtually all of these highly-qualified kids were rejected. This high school turns out academically “perfect” students. But they hadn’t listened when told that, for example, 40,000 academically perfect students apply for 1,000 places (at an elite college), or 135,000 apply for 5,900 places (at a selective state university).
This has gotten crazy. Kids with perfect ACT scores and 4.78 GPAs have been turned down by colleges from state schools to Ivies for bizarre reasons we will look at in the book. The parents, devastated by rejections, act as though their teen is now a failure, forever unemployable, destined to live in a tent down by some river flowing with toxic waste. We’ve seen parents pay six million dollars for a place at the “best school” and others go to jail for trying. How do you plan for “unfair”? A fact-check book is long overdue.
And, with the COVID-19 disruption, planning the best pathway to a high-paying career in a growth field is even more important, for those starting college and also for any adult working, rethinking career advancement or contemplating a new career entirely.
Part One – College Success Statistics
Teens have been running their best race for admissions to a great college, backed by their dedicated, supportive parents, willing to pay exorbitant amounts for a college experience. College for all, because college was the Golden Ticket to a high-earning, secure job guaranteeing upward class mobility, is now the guiding belief of almost all Americans. So, each year, a staggering 70 percent of high school graduates head to college; that is over three million well-educated high school graduates. And the remaining young people think they should be in college even if they aren’t.8
So, looking at pre-pandemic success rates, hopeful freshmen were excited moving into their dorms at the beginning of their college years. They had made it. Has college fulfilled all the promises of success?
Less than 27 percent of those who start college will graduate.Over half will drop out during or just after freshman year.Those who do graduate will not finish in four years, with five to eight years being the norm and five-and-a-half years being the median. Over half will change colleges. Only 36 percent who start at elite colleges or flagship universities graduate in four years.Only 19 percent who start at a state university will finish in four years. Only 5 percent of students in two-year community college programs finish in two years.Over half of college graduates will end up in permanent jobs that only required a certificate. They could have gotten certificates in high school, or with a two-year associate degree. And that associate degree is sometimes attainable in high school. This, rather than the pure academic or “college prep” track, makes the “college-bound” student more attractive to colleges by merging preparation with concrete accomplishments. 75 percent of graduates don’t have careers in their field of study.High school grads with certificates make more than 60 percent of what college grads make.Contrary to beliefs, graduates of highly selective colleges have the lowest life and job fulfillment rankings, equal only to students attending fraudulent for-profit universities.The US has the highest college drop-out rate of any industrialized country in the world.9
To me, those figures reveal a little-publicized catastrophe. Even the elite and “selective” college students do not escape these poor outcomes.
Parents are so proud when moving their college freshman into their first dorm room and saying goodbye. Maybe don’t cry when you move your teen into that first dorm room. Don’t turn their room into a study or guest room too fast—you might be seeing them soon.
They’ll be back—either within a year, or when they don’t get a job after college, or even when they get a job (over 50 percent of those eighteen to thirty-four live “at home,” 34 percent pre-COVID-19). Just an important note: financial considerations are rarely the reason for the move back home at any stage.
Contact Pat Rose, firstname.lastname@example.org, 415-608-7634 or Morena Guerrero, email@example.comI’m a paragraph. Drag me to add paragraph to your block, write your own text and edit me.