Editor’s Note: Hey guys! This is Ransom’s first article as a full CIG team member. If you enjoy it, let him know in the comments!
Do you ever get the feeling that you could be getting more out of your college experience?
That perhaps you’re only scratching the surface, only using a fraction of the resources available to you? As a College Info Geek reader, I’m sure you’re already way ahead of your peers, but if you want to do more to set yourself up for success, today’s post offers some actionable advice from college success speaker and author Jullien Gordon.
Gordon recently visited my school and gave a presentation titled “The Other 4.0: How To Maximize Your College Experience and Get More Than An Expensive Education.”
Gordon’s presentation touched on everything from debt reduction to networking to living a meaningful life.
This particular presentation of his isn’t online, but you’ll learn some of the same things in his TEDx talk:
I highly recommend you see Gordon in person if you get the chance, but today’s post will serve as an introduction to his excellent college success concepts by presenting four of the biggest lessons I learned from seeing him speak.
Gordon began his talk with a story of attending his younger brother’s graduation.
From his seat high in the basketball stadium where the event was taking place, Gordon noticed a graduation cap that said, “Hire me.” This led him to wonder how things could have changed so much in so little time.
Even when he graduated college as an “older millennial,” no one had to worry about jobs. What happened?
Gordon began to explain by looking back in time:
“Our parents,” he said, “only had to be smarter than the person sitting on either side of them in high school.” If they could do that, the “American Dream” of a house, 2.5 kids, and a good job was theirs. They didn’t even have to go to college. All they had to do was “ride the wave.”
For people of Gordon’s age, the pool of competition was larger:
“To get into UCLA, I had to out-compete students from the entire state of California.” Even then, he noted, so long as you graduated from college, you were still guaranteed a good job and a decent life.
Millennials of our age, however, are no longer competing against our entire state or even our entire country – we’re competing against everyone in our age group in the entire world.
It’s not enough just to have a college degree anymore. You’ve got to do more to set yourself apart. Anyone who tells you that all you have to do to be successful is graduate from college is woefully out of touch with the times.
Several times throughout his presentation, Gordon asked the audience members why they attended college.
“Was it to learn?” he inquired.
If that’s your only reason, he pointed out, you’ve clearly never heard of Wikipedia or public libraries. What you’re paying for, he said, is discipline, for someone to compel you to go to class, and even then, colleges aren’t doing a great job of that, since the average national graduation rate is around 60% (and that’s in six years, not four!).
Another common reason people give for attending college is so that they can “get a job.”
College = job sounds like a fair assumption, but the reality is different. These days, Gordon said, employers don’t really care where or if you went to college. What matters to them is that you can create value, get money, and have led twenty or more people.
College presents opportunities to do all three of those things, but you have to seek them out. Simply graduating isn’t enough.
Finally, Gordon mentioned the other common reason people give for attending college: “to make more money.”
Gordon said that yes, college graduates do earn more money on average than those without college degrees, but remember, that’s only for the ones who can even get jobs, and that extra income certainly isn’t justified by taking on massive debt to go to a school that you can’t afford.
Using The College of Wooster’s annual tuition as an example, Gordon calculated that, assuming a student pays full tuition, every minute on campus costs them $0.99. Put another way, a fifty-minute lecture (the average class length at Wooster) costs $49.50.
We celebrate when a professor cancels class, but if we paid someone fifty bucks to do any other service and they bailed on us, we’d probably pissed. Hearing it that way certainly made me reconsider how I spend my time on campus.
This is not to say that attending college is pointless, of course. College can be an excellent investment. It’s all about maximizing the areas most students neglect…
The “Other 4.0,” as Gordon defines it, consists of the internal and external dimensions of your life that lead to success and fulfillment.
The internal dimensions are:
- Personal Capital– Know yourself
- Intellectual Capital– What you really know (not necessarily your major)
The external dimensions are:
- Social Capital– Who you know and who knows you
- Financial Capital– Who knows that you know what you know
You have direct control over numbers 1-3; number 4 is the result of maximizing the others.
Most students, Gordon says, only focus on intellectual capital, neglecting all the opportunities college presents to try new things and figure out what excites you (which increases personal capital) and to meet professors and network with successful alumni (which increases social capital).
Essentially, Gordon advocates an approach very similar to Thomas’s Student Success Triangle.
And even in the realm of intellectual capital, Gordon says, most students take the wrong approach. They assume that if they just get good grades in their chosen major, they’ll have the knowledge they need to succeed in the real world.
This might be true, Gordon says, but it might not, particularly if you want to work in a field in which your school offers no classes. That’s when you have to take your education into your own hands.
Gordon cites the examples of successful entrepreneurs such as Bill Gates and Steve Jobs, pointing out that although they didn’t graduate from college, they sure as heck maximized their personal, intellectual, and social capital.
Are you doing the same? I know I could do more…
Perhaps the best lesson I learned from Gordon’s talk was that you need to define what success looks like to you. Most people, Gordon observed, haven’t even thought about his question, and thus are blindly pursuing the American “defaults” of beauty, fame, or money.
But what does it mean to you to be successful? Not what it means to your parents (despite all his success, Gordon’s parents still wish he had been a doctor). Not what it means to society. What it means to you. Gordon suggests defining three ways.
Too many people, Gordon says, treat life like a multiple choice test, choosing the same predictable career paths of doctor, lawyer, teacher, engineer, or accountant.
When everyone chooses the same path, though, there’s bound to be traffic. Not that you can’t choose these paths if you want to, but there is so much more available to you in life than you may have imagined.
Ultimately, Gordon concludes, you have two choices.
You can take the safe, predictable route that your parents chose, and you’ll probably still be “successful” with the nice house, the car, the spouse, and the 2.5 kids (though you’ll probably be in a bunch of debt and stuck in a job you hate).
Or you can forge your own path. It won’t be as certain, and it certainly won’t be as easy, but it will be life lived on your terms.
Which would you choose?
It’s up to you, and it starts now.