What is a College Education?
Contributed by Ronald F. Bernard
Imagine your seventeen year old daughter, let's call her Diane, awaiting the mail delivery day after day, anticipating that thick envelope from Ideal University.... You know, the one with the crimson letters embossed in the upper left hand corner.
Then, one day, to Diane's delight, and your relief, the mail does not disappoint. Diane's dream is realized. She has been accepted.
Well, that's all well and good, but now the real question arises: Will Diane receive a quality education at Ideal U? That is, will she be exposed to an experience that as far back as the G.I. Bill era was viewed as that special, nearly mystical gateway to academic accomplishment and personal success?
Sadly, the odds are against it.
For example, fully fifty-two percent of college freshmen in the United States never complete their undergraduate degrees. And, the majority of those who do will not have had the academic and maturation experiences while in college that are necessary to excel in today's competitive world.
As parents and counselors, we ask ourselves whether there indeed are schools out there that have what Diane and her classmates should be looking for to improve their odds of not only staying in school, but also of graduating with the skills necessary to enjoy the life long process of intelligent and fulfilling contribution.
In other words, where and what are the elements of the experience that we typically refer to when we talk about a quality college education?
Happily, Ideal U. has recognized and implemented the necessary programs at the undergraduate level that we,as counselors, know will allow the School to provide an educational experience consistent with its name. Luckily, Diane has chosen one of many colleges in the United States that still provide young people with the elements essential to the development of first rate bachelors degree holders.
So, what are these elements?
First, Diane's classes will be small, no more than twenty or so students in each. Unfortunately because of cost and other factors, many colleges are now scheduling undergraduate classes for a hundred or more students. If that were the case at Ideal U, Diane would sit in the back of an auditorium for these classes. Carried forward over a four year period, Diane would rarely have to innovate or defend social, mathematical or scientific concepts. As a result, the practice and habit of creative thinking would have been relatively foreign to Diane.
Second, since Diane is fortunate enough to be attending a school that has recognized the importance of consistently small classes, she must now look to the teachers assigned to her courses.
Once again, Diane has chosen well. She will be taught at Ideal U. by real professors, that is by experts in their fields. And, these professors are hired by Ideal U. with the idea that tenure will be granted to them for undergraduate teaching excellence only.
Third, the professors at Ideal U. are hired and promoted because of their "loco parentis" bent. That is, more clearly stated, they will have Diane's interests at heart in the same way they would if Diane were one of their own children. Ideal U. rewards its professors for creating a spirit of family, of belonging among its student body.
Finally, the professors instructing Diane are to the person what we counselors refer to as "active scholars." By that we don't mean publishing research articles. By that we do mean that these teachers have consciously designed Diane's courses so as to give her an opportunity to experience the real world impact of the theory presented to her in the classroom, what we commonly refer to as "hands on." For example, in chemistry, Diane will have the opportunity to do basic research under the guidance of her teachers. In social science, perhaps a community project, and so forth.
You may be thinking that this information is fine as far as it goes, but how do you make certain that your own student's college parachute opens and then lands near the mark.
You've made a good beginning by reading this short article.
With the high school student population to counselor ratio now standing at approximately six hundred to one in the United States, very few high schoolers ever hear these words.
Share this information with your student. It's a start.