Why school matters more than ever

By General Education Advice

As a parent of three, I wish the work world was going to be easier for my children than for me.  When I give college and career talks throughout Connecticut, I see parents nod their heads when I say: “it used to be that if you graduated from a decent college with decent grades, you were nearly guaranteed a decent job.” I can’t recall any of my high school or college friends who faced prolonged unemployment after college graduation.

Today, even in a highly educated populous like Shoreline, Connecticut, failure to launch is a very real concern.  Helping parents throughout Connecticut who have children who either did not transition well to college or are floundering post college are a regular part of appointment calendar.

Most of these children are from socioeconomic groups where this would not have been predicted 20-30 years ago.  Students from Guilford, Madison, Old Saybrook, Old Lyme, East Lyme etc. usually flourished or at least did well enough post college. Now, that’s not necessarily the case.

What happened? In the past, students who did not get their academic footing in high school usually could still get into a pretty good college.  Competition for college admission was simply far easier a couple decades ago.  One of the least enjoyable parts of my work is telling parents – who had been paying attention to the changing college scene – that their child will probably not gain admission to UCONN.   When I tell parents who knew the Boston schools back in the 80s that their child will not get into the now highly competitive Northeastern, they often look with bewilderment and mention some name from the past: “Steve Margolis got into Northeastern and he was a C student.” He wouldn’t get in today is all I can say.

The bigger issue, however, is the changing economy.  It is simply not the case that those who attend second and third tier colleges are likely to gain employment, unless they are highly focused in an employable area and do well in college.  There always were unfocused college students who majored in “something they didn’t really care about” but were employed in the lower sector of the white collar world.  That’s not the case anymore.  Such folks are often waiting tables or working retail post graduation.

The mission of our company has always been focused on helping people reach their potential.  In the last few years, my “rescue” work has increased.  My hope is that our “prevention” work – helping students build skills and do well in high school will minimize the need to rescue anyone.