As I was sitting on the bus on my way to work last week I glanced over at the young man sitting next to me and had a flashback to my freshmen year of college. This poor soul* was reading a giant geology textbook, more than likely trying to ingest enough useless igneous rock knowledge to pass a test later that day. Knowledge, that he will ultimately purge from his brain to store more useful information.
My flashback was to memorizing a bunch of glacial rock formations, something close to this image below:
Full transparency, It took me awhile to find this. I did get an A in Geology in part because I was able to accurately label what a Tarn is on a test. Something I have never used in my chosen field. I guess one day I might be able to recall this information during trivia night and impress my friends.
*I am playing the odds and assuming he is not a future geologist, for all I know this could have been epic rock porn for this dude.
My Proposed College Freshmen Course List
I decided to crack open my old college curriculum and parse out the classes that I wish I wouldn’t have paid for. Water under the bridge now that my student loans are paid off. But now that I know what it takes to make it in the business world, my time (and money) could have been better spent.
5 classes I wish I could have replaced:
- Intro to psychology
- Physics Lab
Maybe one of the goals is to be a well-rounded student, and I don’t necessarily disagree with that notion. But paying with time, money and lost wages to study something I have no interest in is a mega waste of resources.
Side Note: If those classes sound amazing to you, no offense intended. They just weren’t all that interesting to me.
The 5 classes I would have replaced them with
I feel like the classes below would have given me a jump start on the “experience” thing all the old timers talk about. Two ironic things:
- I would have hated some of the below classes at the time and that is part of the reason I think they should be required. Gotta save students from themselves
- I have voluntarily taken classes during my working career that address some of these needs (and my company paid for them).
Nothing worse than watching someone struggle their way through a presentation. Having been there myself, It is fricken embarrassing.
I know there are public speaking classes in college, but from my super non-scientific polling, they are not always required. Old me would hate current me for saying this, but it should not only be required, people should have to talk in every class period. Down to the awkward intros on day 1.
Practice and confidence are key to delivering content. Anyone can make a pretty powerpoint
“Ahhh, ehhh, ummm, can you do a little better on the starting salary”
Guarantee that is what I sounded like after my mom told me I needed to negotiate the first job offer I had out of college. I will put this as simply as I can:
I would be making at least $20,000 less if I didn’t negotiate raises that wouldn’t have happened otherwise
Even my shaky, squeaky college ask got me some extra cash. It’s not that hard but it takes some confidence. And where does confidence come from?
PRACTICE and PREPARATION!!!!
College seems like a low-risk place for this to start and ups the ROI of that college degree.
This is a personal finance blog, so I shouldn’t have to explain why I think it so important. Ideally, this happens in the first semester so students don’t repeat the mistakes I made and rack up $85,000 in debt that will crush their soul for the next 5-10 years.
Less Rocks, More Stocks!
English – Business Style
Let’s assume that everyone can form complete, coherent sentences before getting to college (or if they are me they can use the Grammarly plugin to fix most of the mistakes). Knowing that, can we skip the mandatory story writing and focus on skills people in the corporate world are going to need?
A few that come to mind:
- Resume writing
readskimmed a 6, yes SIX-page resume last week. After a few hundred words its all the same. Pick a cool project that ignites conversation and roll with it.
- Business Case Prep
- Concise, to the point business case preparation that excludes buzzwords and includes value statements. It’s like people are used to stretching content to hit a minimum word limit or something.
- Email and Memo writing
- I can’t tell you how many times in that last year that I looked at my screen puzzled after finishing a 3 paragraph email.
As I have moved into vetting candidates for open positions over the last few years, this one stands out the most. There is at least 1 painful interview for every open position. The biggest mistakes I see:
- Not understanding what the company does, reciting the market cap or financial success doesn’t cut it
- Not coming with questions, shows a lack of preparation and makes for an awkward ending to an interview. My quick hitter list for question topics below:
- Human Resources/Payroll
- Career Development Opportunities
- Company Culture
- Role Specific Expectations
- Answering questions without giving a supporting example
This falls into the same bucket as negotiations, college is a low-risk place to start honing this skill set.
Wouldn’t we rather practice when an actual job isn’t on the line? Should we be sending students out into the real world to make an ass of themselves after they paid us a small fortune to prepare them?
Are there any other classes you feel college should require that could prepare college grads for the real world?