An Analysis of OMC Survey + Personal Opinion on Choosing the Right School

Just before my appointment rotations began, I sent out a survey to Blake juniors and seniors and asked them about their college choices, intended major, summer plans. Here are the statistics compiled from the survey:

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According to Blake At a Glance, the average graduating class size is 130 students; classrooms average is 15-16 students. Due to the small student to faculty ratio and the liberal arts curriculum, most Blake graduates attend small liberal arts college predominantly in the east coast. According to College Matriculation 2013-2016, out of 159 schools, approximately 70 schools identify as small liberal arts college including Yale University, University of Chicago, St.Olaf College. Result from the survey reconfirms the norm of continuing a liberal arts education.

However, there seemed to be a contradiction when comparing students’ college choice to their intended majors.

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The top two intended majors were STEM and Management majors, which are considered to be more pre-professional tracks than Social Science or Humanities majors. Although schools like Washington University of St. Louis (Olin School of Business, School of Engineering and Applied Science) and Dartmouth College (Tuck School of Business, Thayer School of Engineering)  have undergraduate programs in both Business and Engineering, schools like Carleton College don’t offer those tracks, so they offer options for a 3-2 engineering program, which is a dual-degree program, where only a selective number of students are admitted to pursue an Engineering degree at another school that offers the program. For Wellesley students, interested in taking a management course, it means cross-registering at MIT’s Sloan School of Management. While cross-registration and combined degree programs are excellent opportunities for students who want to graduate from a small liberal arts college, it means there are more complications and barriers along the way as well. Whereas Business and Engineering students at WashU and Dartmouth have research and career center resources on-campus, Wellesley and Carleton students are required to make an extra visit off-campus for laboratory internships and career counseling. Considering how both campuses are located in out-of-the-way places, students can only imagine how painful it’s to commute from their isolated campuses.

Whether it’d be the New York Times or our college counselors, we’ve heard the popular phrase ‘Where You Go Is Not Who You Will Be’ overused countless times. Honestly, I find this to be somewhat ironic. Partially, I agree that where you go isn’t a reflection of your personality, and choosing a college based on its reputation such as its overall ranking on the U.S. News Report is absolutely pathetic. However, choosing a college based on its quality of academics within my intended major, strong network system, and location, are qualities that needs to be prioritized. In fact, I wrote an argumentative essay  on this subject matter for my Literary Essay course last winter.

Obviously, things have changed since last December, and I’m not going to a small liberal arts college in rural Massachusetts. After being denied from Smith, I asked myself if I wanted that admission ticket so desperately. My answer was “no.” While I have a general idea of what I think I would like to pursue in the future, I wanted to build a strong foundation in the liberal arts during my first two years of college. That’s why I initially looked into small liberal arts schools, thinking that I’ll eventually transfer as an upperclassman.

However, I’ve always been attracted by universities in metropolitan areas, where a diverse and innovative economy exists; as the author of There Is Life After College: What Parents and Students Should Know About Navigating School to Prepare for the Jobs of Tomorrow  Jeffrey J. Selingo puts it, “The Knowledge that flows back and forth between the local economy and higher ed fuels the growth of intellectual capital for both sides, providing students with unparalleled opportunities for research projects and internships, and eventually, good jobs after graduation.” 

I picked up this book at the Minnesota Public Radio Open House event in May. I read the uncorrected proof book; therefore, there may have been some changes. However, I highly recommend this book to parents and students who want to fuel their engines earlier to get ahead in the job game. Selingo interviews recruiters from renowned companies to ask them about what qualities they look for in a candidate; he also provides tips on using the networking site LinkedIn.

In the book, Selingo explains schools like American University attract scholars and Ph.d.s, attracted to D.C.’s intellectual and cultural life, working full-time and teaching on the side. Having these “hybrid professors” is AU’s greatest asset, because professionals that worked outside of academia provide both “practical arts and liberal arts” education to AU students.

Regarding internships, it’s pretty self-explanatory. If you attend George Washington, it’s more likely that a popular journalist would teach your media courses, and CNN is casually invited on-campus to have its nightly show taped; when you’re exposed to a setting, where you’re pushed to network with professionals working in your field of study, it opens up a whole new possibility from refining your communications skills to interning at the Washington Post.

After months of college research, I found the ideal fit for me: Boston University’s General Studies Program. BU guarantees me the resource of a large research university, while the College of General Studies (CGS) program allows me to bridge the gap between professors and myself. In addition, the tailored academic advising program helps CGS students to transition to different colleges and schools within BU. As I mentioned above, I have a general idea of what I would like to study, something that combines interactive technology with management; however, it’s still evolving and remains fluid; therefore, being in a liberal arts program before the transition was vital in my college decision.

And I’m fortunate to study in the heart of Boston, one of the best employment hubs and college towns located in a major metro area, according to American Institute for Economic Research.

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Despite having half of Blake graduates attending a small liberal arts college located in a suburban or rural area, the survey indicated that location, social scene, student culture, size, more external factors, were the most important features when deciding on a school.

Again, external factors are highly subjective. For me, being practical and career-oriented was a priority; therefore, Boston was the right choice for me. However, others might say they’d rather belong in a school, where most students are involved in greek life, and students can lie down in green pasture to write an Anthropology paper surrounded by cottage-like buildings. That suburban culture wasn’t something that stirred my heart.

Later on, I learned that LinkedIn, the famous networking site, isn’t just valuable for recruitment purposes. Instead, it actually can assist many teenagers in their college search. Most colleges or universities in the U.S. haves its own LinkedIn page, and site members have access to information on where alumni work, what they do, what they studied, what they are skilled at.

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Site members are able to narrow down the selection by clicking a company or industry of their interest, particular assets that resonate with them, or their mutual connections.
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For example, I selected a region of my interest and a field that I have the potential to work for. LinkedIn filtered out the data to 1,222 from 215,301 original results. The companies’ name also changed. The top three companies in the SF area are Genentech, Kaiser Permanente, and Google.  Overall, though, when all data was compiled, most BU graduates ended up working for the following companies: Fidelity Investments, IBM, MA General Hospital.

By scrolling down the page, LinkedIn members are able to read profiles of all alumni with a LinkedIn profile. I found it to be helpful to actually read through some of the sample profiles, especially the ones that align with your career goals or aspirations. As a young, inexperienced student, just knowing to describe and explain your role as a part-time employee at a non-profit organization in a concise language can be an integral first step to initiate before making the next move as a full-time intern at a consulting firm in the summer. Using others’ template to learn and train an eye for crafting a solid résumé is important.

If you’re a rising senior, I highly recommend narrowing down your application list through the LinkedIn system. Compare two to three schools by selecting few industries that intrigue you. See where alumni work at. Ask yourself; “is this where I see myself in five to seven years?” You may also be someone like myself, who has a general idea of what to pursue in the future but has a difficult time deciding on a major. However, you’ve recently taken course in Statistics and Computer Science, and you became more interested in computational and analytical courses. You can easily look up top 25 data scientist profiles on LinkedIn to observe insights about members with that profession on LinkedIn.

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LinkedIn analyzes profiles of data scientist members with an advanced and most viewed profile with superb technical skills and outstanding projects posted as a media source on their profile. As shown above, the top three schools renowned data scientists graduated from are Stanford, UC-Berkeley, MIT.
Using a paper copy source such as the Fiske Guide to Colleges by Edward B. Fiske is very helpful as well. Especially, if you’re interested in taking a pre-professional track, it’s important to note the page on “guide to professionals.” In that section, Fiske categorizes schools based on their size, type, and strongest programs. For example, large, public universities with strong business programs include University of Michigan and University of Texas-Austin. Private Universities include University of Southern California and University of Notre Dame. It’s also important to note that large, public universities and mid-sized, private universities have upscaled pre-professional schools and a global network system. For example, studying Business at Washington & Lee University versus University of Washington is going to be different in terms of the connections you make and the industries you’ll go into.
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Lastly, students responded they are most likely to spend their summer with a part-time job, whether it’d be babysitting or camp counseling. Main reasons included to save money, to continue to pursue their passions, to work for a cause that matters to them.

This is where the importance of adopting “soft skills” weighs in. Soft skills are often disregarded and cannot be taught in a classroom environment. They may include your ability to communicate with people of all ages, to tolerate criticism and offensive feedback, to organize people and manage multiple projects simultaneously. I will have another post on essential soft skills, so I will save that up for now. However, just to briefly explain, having a part-time job, even if it means bagging at a grocery store or tutoring algebra for your cousins, soft skills can only be taught through “real-life scenarios.” Without having a report card or a transcript demonstrating your performance, you will need to detect what you have learned through this particular experience and see the larger applications to your future career. Ask yourself; “how has working at Jamba Juice helped me to learn about collaboration and time management?” The fact that Blake students are pushing themselves to engage in some sort of a job over the summer needs to be complimented. Hopefully, they will find joy in learning soft skills, as much as they love making money.

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