Which classes that you choose as part of your curriculum are going to be great for your life skills. For example English major is not something that helps in real life, think of professions and educational choices, which can help you in real life: banking skills, cooking skills, building skills – anything close to real life and away from philosophical matters.
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When a student graduates from college these days, the chances are good that they will have a substantial amount of college loan debt to pay off. The current recession’s conventional wisdom was that college or graduate schools were safe to havens, especially after lay-offs. The idea was that by the time the program was completed, the economy would be better off, and jobs would be available again.
This prompted many people to return to school, but now they are graduated, with no job prospects in their field, and a load of tuition bills hanging over their heads. It almost seems irresponsible to take up a discipline that shows no promise of new hires in the next decade. It seems more appropriate for students to be gearing their education towards the jobs that exist rather than their dreams of a recherché and largely jobless field of study. Sad, it certainly is, but also realistic. What courses, on the other hand, are most likely to help students in their real life?
Of course, if you are at a liberal arts institution, the choice of vocationally oriented courses is going to be somewhat limited. Some institutions with pretensions to grandeur, e.g., the University of Pennsylvania, have back-pedaled from offering job-oriented courses. Penn deliberately off-loaded their allied medical professions school in the late 70s because it was too vocational, too presumably un-intellectual. The Education Department has suffered a similar pressure to teach theory over practice, thereby avoiding the label of a teacher’s college. This all seems a bit like intellectual snobbery, but it is a fact of recent history.
To get access to useful courses in a liberal arts institution takes a bit of thinking and creative negotiation with department heads. That nearly impregnable bastion of inapplicable knowledge, the English department, will, without fail, offer an Expository Writing course. This is gold, or better still, uranium, in its value to a student and prospective job hunter and employee. We all, without exception, need to be able to write persuasively.
Take this class to learn how to get your point across powerfully and effectively. That is going to be very helpful when you are trying to convince the authorities to allow you to build your business where you wish to. You may find yourself, during the course itself, writing about topics of dubious usefulness, such as ‘Marx versus Bill Gates: who should we admire?’, but the writing techniques you learn are going to apply to any letter, legal argument, PowerPoint presentation, or memo.
If there is a school of business, this is the likeliest place to find courses that you can use in a job. Accounting, Finance, Operations Management, Transportation, Marketing, Insurance, and any other courses that don’t deal with theoretical economics, will all help to bolster your resume for post-college jobs or even summer internships.
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There are colleges, such as Harvard, which do not offer Accounting to undergraduates. Here is an opportunity to get to know your Dean of student advising. If you have good math skills and an organized mind, as well as the ambition to spare, you could request permission to take a graduate class. Keep the end date for Drop/Add on your calendar, however, since a graduate course is likely to go like the wind. Many of the students are likely to have had Accounting as undergraduates or even in some enlightened high schools.
The Engineering Department is another great place to find useful courses. Even if you do not have the math skills to go all the way through with an engineering degree, these courses will stand you in good stead. For example, in the environmental agencies of the states and federal government, some positions require some engineering training, but not necessarily a complete degree. Environmental Engineering, by the way, is often the least demanding of the course and degree offerings.
If you are at a school with a graduate department and no undergraduate course offerings, ask permission to register for one of the beginning graduate courses, and be prepared to drop promptly if it is too tough. You might just be able to manage it.
Look for more ideas soon!