How to Pick a College Major

We’ve posted on this before: polls show that a majority of students see college as career preparation and credentialing. They most often choose their major based on salary. This logic obviously excludes the humanities because entry-level salaries for humanities majors are comparatively low. See here:

This article effectively pushes back against the conventional bromides and misinformation about the relation between the humanities and (lack of) employment opportunity. What it does not say is that the market evidence shows that (1) employers want a combination of technical and liberal arts training and (2) humanities majors or technical majors with humanities exposure tend to climb in organizations at a faster rate than purely technical majors over the lifetime of a career.

What Type of Student Harvard Medical School Wants

From the Harvard Medical School Website:

aptitude in the biological and physical sciences during their
undergraduate years, but not to the exclusion of the humanities
and social sciences.
study at Harvard Medical School has shown that students are successful
in their medical studies regardless
of undergraduate concentration, providing that they have had adequate
science preparation. Students are urged to strive for a balanced and
liberal education rather than specialized training. No preference is
given to applicants who have majored in the sciences
over those who have majored in the humanities.)

  • 7. Language
effective communication among the medical care team and between
physicians and patients is so crucial to the delivery of care, all
matriculants should be fluent and have a nuanced facility in English.
Mastery of a foreign language, although not required, is a valuable
skill that expands intellectual and cultural horizons and that
reinforces preparation for patient care in a multicultural

*Thanks to Greg Stallings for the link

You Decide: Study Abroad vs. International Internship?

Employers are increasingly on the lookout for graduates with international experience. Yet they are finding that study abroad isn’t sufficient for their needs. Or, at least, students don’t know how to talk about study abroad in ways relevant to employers. This explains the nationwide movement away from study abroad to international internships. 

Here’s an excerpt from a recent NYT article:
J. P. Matychak, director of career services . . .
saw that employers placed a premium on international experience, but the
study-abroad students he counseled were unable to articulate how their
programs prepared them for global work.
And so he upended the traditional study-abroad experience, as many
colleges have done. He made work the focus of the summer program, which
this year is open to the School of Arts and Sciences. “We put
internships at the foundation and academics on the perimeter,”
he says.
Such a focus might make a
liberal arts dean shudder, but these are different times. International
internships are growing. In 2000-1, 7,000 students traveled abroad for
work and college credit. In 2010-11, the number was 16,400,
with another 8,700 working without credit, according to the Institute
of International Education.
Students want to study abroad (a record 274,000 did so for credit last
year), but they also know that in a soft job market and increasingly
global economy, they need an international work record and the
connections that can bring. Study abroad may no longer
be enough to make them stand out, nor does it shed light on a country’s
business culture. Work-study abroad does double duty.

Stanley Fish on the Future of Universities

The debate on the “future” of the university is a debate, seemingly endless, between those who believe the university should be about vocational training and those who think its purpose is to develop intellectual capacity, critical thinking, judgement, wisdom, etc., via the liberal arts.

Excerpt: “The tension between a market model and a Socratic model was nicely
captured by two statements Spar made in succession. The first warmed my
heart: “We want to teach students things they don’t want to know.” That
is, rather than regarding students as consumers (all the rage these days
in places like England and Texas), we should regard them as
yet-to-be-formed intellects who are often best served by saying no to
their desires — as we have traditionally. But then Spar immediately
added, “Yet, we can’t be too removed from the marketplace.”

This tension in Spar’s thinking between practicality and idealism may seem somewhat schizophrenic, but it is not unhealthy. In fact, it captures precisely what labor researcher Phil Gardner at Michigan State University claims the labor market is looking for (and will increasingly be looking for in the future): either technically trained liberal arts majors or liberally trained majors of technical disciplines. In other words, it’s not one or the other that is required for long-term success, it is both.

More here:

MIT Engineer Says that Study of Liberal Arts is More Valuable than Learning a Trade

Why it that? Because:

“The people who will succeed in more expensive labor markets like the
U.S. will be those who can think creatively and generate the IDEAS that
will propel economic growth. Such skills are best fostered in a
traditional liberal arts environment…. If you teach students one trade, that skill might be obsolete in a few
years. But if you teach people how to think and look at lots of
information and connect dots – all skills that a classic liberal
education gives you – you will thrive.”

This doesn’t mean that students should avoid learning technical skills. The best path forward is a hybrid of liberal and technical learning.

More here: