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How to Succeed in the New University Landscape: 5 things You Need to Know

by Carol Barash, PhD, on Apr 17, 2013 4:32:00 PM

What do Napster, HuffPo and Facebook have to do with higher ed? Technology is radically transforming what we learn and how we learn. What happened to publishing, music and friendship is also happening in education. Technology is changing our fundamental assumptions both the content and structure of higher education. And, as was reported this week in the New York Times, not all universities will survive the tectonic shifts unleashed by digital learning.

How do parents and students assess college choices in the midst of all this change? How can you ensure that the places you are applying--and especially the one to which you commit four or more years of your life and more than a little hard-earned cash--will teach for what matters 10 or 20 or 100 years from now?

1. Pick a college with a sound balance sheet: This statistic gets batted around a lot in education circles: in the next 25 years one third of US colleges (roughly 1,300) will potentially have to close their doors because they do not have sound finances. You are on the soundest footing for the long run if you pick a college that has a strong endowment and sustainable business model and is “best in class” at a few areas of specialization, rather than trying to do everything (which is oh so 20th century).  

2. Think of college as part of your portfolio, not the whole solution: College--even the best college--is not a panacea to work or life success. The sooner you begin exploring work options and building skills for workplace success, the more likely you are to be in the position to land great jobs when they become available. That’s why at Story2 we use the college admissions process as an opportunity to teach fundamental storytelling and written communication skills that are essential not only for college admissions essays but also for college and career success.

3. Look for three fundamental parts of college learning: A college education that sets you up for life success includes a balance of three types of learning: skills + experience for the workplace, subject matter expertise in an area of expanding knowledge (take a look at High Noon, for a list of 20 global challenges you need to learn about), and community. Ask yourself about every college you research or visit: How does this community prepare me to thrive in a diverse, globally connected workplace? Is this community built on past or future assumptions?

4. Technology is not optional: You are always connected and you may take technology completely for granted, but many universities still do not. Ask them what is their technology plan? How do they plan to incorporate best in breed digital learning--such as 2U’s semester online--into your overall learning options? Do they teach in a way that is preparing you for a globally connected workplace? Are they combining the best of high tech as well as high touch?

 5. Who else is in their network? Look at the leaders and they are building strategic alliances to expand students’ learning opportunities, their own and students’ global reach. EdX--an online learning platform powered by Harvard, MIT and Stanford--is the most obvious example of leading universities collaborating and sharing resources. You will get the best sense of what a university offers you short and long term by paying attention to the strategic alliances they are building to nurture your college--and lifetime--learning opportunities.

Brand names do not guarantee an education that will prepare you to lead in the 21st century. Make sure you look past the slick brochures and delve deeply into each college’s fundamental assumptions and preparations for the future.

Want more tips? Check out our guides, college admission essay tips and webinars that provide college essay help and enable you to successfully bridge the gap from high school to college, and life.

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Topics:college admission

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