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Study: What did you Actually Learn in College?

chriswchrisw 6 replies2 discussions Junior Member
Saw this article this morning:

Congratulations, College Graduate. Now Tell Us: What Did You Learn? | LinkedIn
The study’s bottom line: 45 percent of students in the study made no gains in their writing, complex reasoning, or critical-thinking skills during their first two years of college. After four years, the news wasn’t much better: 36 percent failed to show any improvement.

The article goes on to show a strong correlation between improvement in writing/reasoning ability and employment, with writing/reasoning ability based on an essay test given to a sample of students (see the article for details).

Interestingly, if not surprisingly, business majors fared the worst in this study.

Thoughts?
6 replies
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Replies to: Study: What did you Actually Learn in College?

  • peterhaxpeterhax 2 replies0 discussions
    Compared to all my friends taking up a Bachelor of Arts, I can see them being in the 45% simply because those degrees are just not as challenging enough to where you can comfortably say you learned a lot after graduation. I read their textbooks and it seems like you don't have to fight as hard to understand the material. Plus, Bachelor of Arts degrees are not really practical degrees in the sense that you cannot use the skills you learn to provide a marketable service or product, so many would probably feel like they wasted their time in college when the job they take up immediately after graduation had nothing to do with what they "learned"; therefore, they probably feel like they didn't learn anything at all.
    edited May 2013
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  • chriswchrisw 6 replies2 discussions Junior Member
    I wouldn't go down that path entirely. In fact, the article suggests quite the opposite. While students in the STEM fields are generally challenged and also have a higher rate of gainful employment than liberal arts majors (nature of the beast), I read this article as saying that the things you learn as, say, a history major, can in some ways make you more marketable than what you learn as a business major. Or, put differently, the things you don't learn as a business major (which is a BSE, not a BA) can potentially hinder marketability.

    I think that business degree vs. arts & sciences degree makes for an interesting conversation piece. Engineering and nursing are both more of undergraduate professional programs than business and arts, as you get specific training in a discipline. When you enter the business world right after getting a degree in either business or A&S, you still need extensive training to be useful, so realistically, what are you getting out of your degree? I've been saying this for years, but I truly believe that when put into a job that requires extensive on-the-job training (i.e. any consulting job ever), what you would learn in a social sciences or humanities major - critical reasoning, writing, analytical thought - is arguably more valuable than a business major.

    You are correct in saying that BAs are not practical, but there is a big difference between an impractical degree and a useless degree, and I would challenge the thought that an impractical degree would lead students to believe they learned nothing.
    edited May 2013
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  • NovaLynnxNovaLynnx 5 replies0 discussions New Member
    The fact that business majors did not fare well didn't entirely surprise me. At least at my college business majors tended to do more collaborative work and had many more presentations - the idea was to build their public speaking/overall communication skills and to learn to work with a diverse group of peers to get the job done. While they did that, I had 15-20 page papers due in each of my psychology courses. There was still group work, and usually at least one presentation per semester, but the written component typically carried the most weight in my courses as opposed to presentations in business courses.

    I don't think one skill is more important than the other - we all need to be good speakers, thinkers, and writers. But the students have to want to improve. More and more students are attending college because "it's the thing to do after high school," or because they can't find a job. They aren't just going to learn and expand their views - they're going to party, move out of their parents homes, and hopefully earn a killer salary at the end. But there's so much more you need to put into the experience to get that result.
    edited May 2013
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  • sosomenzasosomenza 109 replies1 discussions Junior Member
    I learned how to get along with people, well enough to get hired and hold down a job. In my opinion, interpersonal relationship skills are the most important thing that one should learn in college. Everything else comes in second.
    edited May 2013
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  • DreburdenDreburden 11 replies1 discussions
    It took you until college to learn how to get along with people in a workplace? I've been working since I was fifteen
    edited May 2013
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  • ucbalumnusucbalumnus 295 replies1 discussions Junior Member
    chrisw wrote:
    Interestingly, if not surprisingly, business majors fared the worst in this study.

    Business tends to increase in popularity as the selectivity of the college goes down. So that phenomenon may have more to do with the popularity of the major at various selectivity levels of colleges than the major itself (other than having a relatively low baseline of rigor).

    In contrast, most liberal arts (science, humanities, social studies) majors are generally most popular at the most selective colleges.
    edited May 2013
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