What a time to be alive! What a time to be an educator! I say that as an educational pundit, and in a decorous manner.
College readiness may have forever changed as of spring 2020, due to the impact of COVID-19. Per notable publications, listservs with resources and short snippets of advice, webinars and chats featuring higher education professionals, related professional associations, and more, the subject of the pandemic’s impact on current student experience has dominated conversations across colleges and universities in recent weeks.
A few other things that need to be added to the agenda sooner rather than later: recruitment, admissions, and all things regarding prospective applicants!
Now is the time for prospective students in high school, as early as grade nine, to re-evaluate their career interest and its trajectory in a post-coronavirus world.
High schoolers should be asking themselves the following questions:
- What majors am I interested in?
- What does the job marketplace related to that major look like during this pandemic, and what are relevant industry professionals forecasting?
- Will these jobs be available in the distant future, upon both my entry into and graduation from college?
- What new skills, whether previously unknown or only vaguely discussed, are now necessary components of these jobs?
These are just a handful of the many questions that prospective students should be asking, especially those looking to make a well-informed decision about the kind of education they should be seeking in order to find success, compete, and make the most of their educational investment.
As part of the recruitment/admissions process, colleges and universities should think about offering an online, non-credit career exploration course where gifted high school students could choose an interest and investigate the impact of COVID-19 on careers related to that interest. A student’s selection could help determine potential majors, potential schools or colleges within a university, and more. Colleges and universities need to offer something dynamic—something that addresses concerns, provides guidance, creates exposure to industry savants and faculty members, and adds elements resembling a real-world experience.
The course should not only address the aforementioned questions, but also discuss how these early decision-making strategies influence retention practices, student development networks, future outlooks, and the college experience in general. It is not a secret that college students who change their major or field of study without the proper research and guidance typically find themselves in peculiar circumstances regarding student-loan debt and time to graduation.
Here are a few questions worth pondering: prior to COVID-19, what was your gifted high schoolers’ perception of their careers of interest, and what is it now? Would now be the time to glorify STEM fields? Does the service industry seem alluring anymore to prospective students interested in tourism and hospitality management majors?
Selecting a major was never simple, and COVID-19 has made it even more complicated. Not to mention, there should be heightened sensitivity to family finances, priorities, and health, all of which impact a student’s matriculation. There’s no better time to create such a course to help guide families through the admissions process than right now.
So, with COVID-19 in mind, colleges and universities can assist in advance with the college selection process, rather than relying solely on high school presentations, table and booth setups in the school’s gym, or past events like “bring your parent or guardian to school.” This idea should be of interest to many and should be expanded upon.
The Benefits and Learning Outcomes:
- an increase in social capital in navigating a college/university campus and its complexities,
- well-versed behavior concerning college and academic success strategies,
- preparedness with interpersonal communication skills that virtual environments are forcing the everyday professional to use,
- expanded awareness of new employment opportunities launched by a wide variety of different needs,
- the ability to make well-informed decisions on a career path, and
- possession of the tools needed to determine career viability and satisfaction.
Other Considerations and Approaches to this Idea:
- incorporating virtual experiences featuring university alumni, current students in or pursuing internships, etc.,
- adding international/global career-related components, given the impact of COVID-19 around the world,
- involving career assessment tools and coaching opportunities, via professional development and industry centers at the college/university of interest, which the creators may also need to revise due to COVID-19, and
- potentially offering the course for variable credit, as college hours may be alluring to gifted students and may bode well for their college admission portfolios.
What I’ve shared here is just an idea. There is so much more that could be done. The reality is also that there is no perfect time to actualize this idea. It is necessary, however. Families need to make a well-informed decision. While there is room for error, hopefully we can reduce the magnitude of such errors with the perfect amalgamation of pre-planning, investigating, asking questions, conducting research, and using available guidance. Even if colleges and universities don’t implement something like this idea, parents can adapt some of these strategies on their own.
This op-ed piece is meant to get the ball rolling—hopefully in a direction that benefits gifted students during uncertain times. I believe students, their stakeholders, and educators will surmount these odd times.
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