Is college preparing us for the real world?

By Kendall Tich


For the span of our entire education, our brains are being pumped with mathematical formulas, scientific methods and grammatical tips for essays and research papers. As we enter the real world, getting jobs or internships during our time at USD, it is evident that a great deal of the information we remember from school becomes irrelevant.

In fact, according to Forbes staff writer, John Tamny, “As fun as time spent in college is […], it’s pure fantasy to assume that knowledge gained on campus translates to a hyper-dynamic business world.”

Many college students would agree that university courses are continuations of high school and do not give us the academic and personal background necessary to compete with other college graduates. So what is preventing us from learning real world information? There are perhaps a few causes of school’s lacking in preparing us for jobs and lives after college.

1. We are taught to memorize and regurgitate information. We are given a multitude of facts and figures accompanied by strategies to remember them. Those strategies allow us to memorize material for a certain amount of time, but once we recite that information on tests or quizzes, we often kick it to the back of our minds where we will lose it because we are no longer accessing it. Because of this, the amount of information we learn and retain to reuse later on in life is significantly less than if we were to have learned everything in a more comprehensive, complete way.

The real world is not about just memorizing information and repeating it back to your boss, employees or coworkers. The work force requires us to apply what we have learned throughout our lives toward a real world approach.

Learning the Periodic Table of Elements may get you a 100 percent on your chemistry exam but the only way to succeed with this information in a real job is by knowing how to apply that information to research in a lab or scientific discussions in an office. However, this kind of learning is often left out of school curriculum.

2. We are being taught the old fashioned ways of accessing information. Most of what we learn is accessible to us with just the click of a button through online databases and sites.

Therefore, the old ways of finding information such as learning how to find words in a dictionary, learning how to find books at a library and learning how to do math without a calculator are becoming increasingly outdated.

There are some things that require this kind of thinking and therefore should still be used in schools, but at what point in your career will you not have access to a calculator to type in a math problem?

Technology has made our lives much more productive, so by focusing on teaching students how to do things the old fashioned way, we are actually regressing to what school was like before technological advancements.

3. We aren’t required to learn real world responsibilities. By this I mean paying bills, opening a trading account, tracking spending or balancing a checkbook. Some high school courses require you to know what a checkbook is and know that you will one day be required to pay your bills.

Very few schools make it a requirement to take a course in which you learn how to do these things and other financial responsibilities. In fact, many schools don’t even offer such courses. So how do we learn this information? These real world responsibilities get pushed aside for information about societies that existed 10,000 years ago.

Even in college, taking a class on finances after college is not required in most schools. So, we go into the world knowing we have to pay our bills on time and knowing that we write checks to pay for things such as rent for an apartment or membership in an organization.

What would be more beneficial to students would be learning how to apply concepts learned in economics or business courses in the real world and how to use those in your own life.

Many concepts learned do relate to the world around us but we can’t quite seem to relate them to ourselves. This makes paying attention and retaining information seem difficult and irrelevant.

4. At no point during our education do we truly ever learn about relationships and connections with others. This is perhaps the most vital set of skills to take with you throughout your academic life and entering the workforce and real world but teachers and professors only ever touch on this.

When do we ever have a class that shows us how to make connections with others or how to maintain relationships when we leave for college? When do we learn how to send an email to a potential employer or how to behave at a job interview? These are skills we must seek to learn outside of school even though school should be responsible for at least pointing us in the right direction.

Learning how to build your network, as a candidate for internships and jobs, is vital in succeeding and competing with other college students trying to get those same positions you’re applying for.

According to Alison Green, a US News columnist, “Students often come out of college having heard that they should network, but not understanding what that means or how to do it. As a result, some new grads simply don’t network at all and others inadvertently use strategies that turn off their contacts.”

Unfortunately, we often don’t realize this until much later than when we should begin building those connections and there aren’t any classes offered to help with this. So, many college students graduate and head off into the world with little to no connections helping them acquire jobs or knowledge of how to present themselves once they have landed a big interview.

Although we are not taught all the things we could be taught in high school and college and throughout the rest of our careers as students, we learn over time that there are certain ways we can improve ourselves outside of school.

The things we don’t learn in a classroom, we learn with our friends, family or peers. Many of these lessons, however would be beneficial to learn in a school environment where professionals in each of the subjects are teaching us so we can utilize the taught skills later on in life.

Schools need to readjust their curriculum to stay current with the way times have changed and to help students comprehend and understand rather than just memorize information. Professionals in charge of hiring college graduates are looking for a more extensive experience than just receiving high grades and a diploma.

Forbes writer John Tamny also noted that “A college diploma is simply a credential that at best says you’re smart and ambitious.”

The only way to best prepare college graduates for entrance into the real world is by challenging them to gain a more thorough understanding of course material and the ability to apply those lessons to internships, jobs and beyond.