A problem in college recruiting

Say a college has 50 spots for freshmen psychology majors, and 200 apply. Theoretically, 150 of them will have to go to another college.

But consider that psychology is a broad field. It heavily overlaps with philosophy, English, sociology, anthropology, and social work. Many of the rejected applicants would have been happy in any of these other majors. Combine that with how many students will eventually change majors anyways, and it makes you think the title of your major isn’t very important.

And, with few exceptions, it’s not. The college experience is.

Consider this idea from Jeff Selingo, editor at large of The Chronicle of Higher Education:

“What if we started defining colleges around a set of experiences rather than majors? There are four experiences that I think colleges should start defining themselves around:

1. Seek passionate faculty — we know from research that students who get to know faculty one-on-one over the course of their undergraduate career are going to have a much better chance of succeeding.

2. Dive deep into a research project — when you talk to employers, they really value students who did undergraduate research, mainly because it stimulates critical thinking, gives them a better understanding of what they learned from a lecture, and allows them to work in group situations with uncertain results.

3. Go on a global experience — when you look at the research on study abroad, more and more students talk about how that was a critical experience in their undergraduate career. But that fact of the matter is that it’s becoming increasingly expensive to study abroad, so can we create more cross-cultural experiences for students, whether it’s just within the United States, or even shorter experiences overseas.

4. Be creative. Take risks. Learn how to fail. — as colleges have added a lot of amenities over the last 10 or 20 years, and as they’ve added more and more people to guide students through college, there’s a lot more hand-holding now. As you talk to employers, they think that students don’t have enough creativity, they’re afraid to take risks, and they don’t know how to fail. So we should be putting this into the DNA of every institution.

As recruiters, rather than defining ourselves through a set of majors, it might be more effective to start selling the experience.

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