Source: University Chronicle
As we have six more weeks to go before finals week hits, I am motivated to talk about the importance of getting some hands-on experience this summer for college students.
I received a call last week from a student hiring rep of a sales company who was looking for recommendations from student club presidents to put forward the names of their respective members who may be interested in a summer internship.
So, I asked around the members of my club and found that most of my fellow colleagues have already secured a summer internship. While I am contented with the achievements of these students, I wonder how many students out there have not considered an internship yet.
If you have been around SCSU long enough, you should have heard about the push on experiential learning – a new pillar of the institution to promote student involvement in actual work setting and practice real businesses with professionals in their respective fields.
Experiential learning refers to a goal-oriented program that is tailored to a student’s educational and professional development needs to give the student practical experience that can leverage his or her proficiency in the discipline. Internships, case studies, volunteer connections, community services, education abroad, and cultural exchange programs are examples of an experiential learning effort.
The key here is practical experience. As the ancient Chinese proverb goes, “I do, and I understand,” learning is better done hands-on than simply told. An effective experiential learning program allows students to involve in an exploration of some kind, which will help them to deepen and broaden their understanding on a concept or situation, typically built within their major emphases.
A mass communication student gains hands-on skills in TV broadcasting by being a student anchor at SCSU. Image courtesy of wjon.com
With the number of degrees awarded each year at universities across the nation hiking and outpacing the projected job availability in the market, finding a student with strong GPA is no longer a tough mission. When everyone is a 4.0, whose 4.0 is better?
The answer: the one with better experience.
It was frustrating to me when I first started looking for part-time jobs as a college sophomore. In almost every job that I wanted to apply for has this listed as top requirement: successful candidates should have substantial experience working or 1-2 years of related experience or training, or equivalent combination of education and experience, preferably presented in a strong portfolio.
I mean, how do you expect a college student to have years of relevant experience in the first place? Then I figured it out. I watched how some of my hardcore friends who went to school during the day and still worked 20-30 hours a week at various service and administrative industries.
These friends of mine have exhibited exceptional communication skills and client servicing ability. I was put to shame for my complaints about how tough school was and that I was not having enough time to rest. These undefeated college warriors have proven to me that perseverance prevails.
When these students graduate, their resumes look unbelievably spicy. They are the ones who will be able to nail the questions their potential employers throw at them during job interviews because they have lived it.
While learning about the concepts and theories in our disciplines is important, the practical experience gained through experiential learning is equally vital to give the student an overall education on the subject matter. This is why I think colleges should make practical learning programs a compulsory component of a bachelor’s degree.
“It always amazes me that higher education didn’t think of this sooner. For me it’s a no-brainer. If you’re going to position your students well, you’ve got to give them this exposure before they graduate,” said Patricia Cormier, president of Longwood University in Virginia, on U.S. News Education portal.
I think our system needs a serious review when an English or Philosophy student asks, “Can I get a job with this major?”
Since it is becoming a common practice for employers to see prior work experience as integral to the hiring process, especially in fields like business, journalism and communications, universities and colleges should program internships or some sort of praxis into their curricula.
Furthermore, students will gain more than just relevant know-how of their disciplines; they will also get to build valuable relationships with professionals in the field. These connections are difficult to establish if a student is not already active in the game.
Traditionally, earning a college degree has been good enough to throw a celebration. But in today’s market, experience is the name of the game.