“Jeannie, are you serious? We need to talk to 6th graders about career?”
Yes. And if not in 6th grade, then as soon as possible after that. Why? Because when your child is in 6th, 7th, or 8th grade, his or her brain is growing faster than at any time since infancy.
Whatever you tell your daughter now — whatever she experiences — will imprint on her powerfully, very likely staying with her into high school, college, and adulthood. This is why I am so emphatic about teaching middle schoolers college study strategies like how to use a calendar and how to use the time-saving “quiz and recall method” for college level studying. (You can see the emphatic post I wrote on this subject here.)
What should we be telling middle schoolers about career?
1. “Wow; you’ve got some outstanding natural abilities that are going to help you have a great career when you’re an adult!”
2. “When you work hard at activities that develop these abilities, your brain grows by leaps and bounds.”
3. “In the old days college kids used to take random college classes to see what careers they might interested in. Ha ha ha — people don’t do that anymore. That career strategy never really worked anyway — and these days college is way too expensive to do that.”
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Your 12th grader is in tears, desperate for you to give him the go-ahead to attend an elite university that’ll cost him $950 per month for 10 years after college. You want him to be happy. Do you say yes?
Before you respond, you’ll need to be clear on the answer to this one question: “Is it really true that elite private education is so enriching that it automatically leads to a happier, more fulfilled life after college?” What does the research say?
In a 2014 NPR article entitled Poll: Prestigious Colleges Won’t Make You Happier In Life Or Work, Anya Kamenetz cites a Gallup survey of 29,650 college graduates of all ages that demolishes the argument that top college grads lead more fulfilling lives later in life.
Here are the top 6 surprises found in the Gallup data Kamenetz cites:
1. The college you attend doesn’t actually affect your future happiness after college. “When you ask college graduates whether they’re “engaged” with their work or “thriving” in all aspects of their lives,” Kamenetz writes, “their responses don’t vary one bit whether they went to a prestigious college or not.”
2. The college you attend doesn’t move the needle one bit on five separate measures of human happiness. Gallup pollsters asked college grads an array of questions designed to measure how well they were doing in regard to financial health, sense of purpose, physical health, financial security, close relationships, and community pride. The astounding finding? “(The results) did not vary based on whether the grads went to a fancy name-brand school or a regional state college, one of the top 100 in the U.S. News & World Report rankings or one of the bottom 100.”
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