Ask people about the value of college today, and you’ll get a bewildering mix of answers. Optimists savor a 2014 Federal Reserve study showing that people with diplomas earn $830,000 more than non-graduates over their lifetimes. Skeptics respond that it is impossible to ignore rising student debt, rickety graduation rates—and growing anxiety about many graduates’ eventual destiny.
This schism is happening because there isn’t a guaranteed ticket from campus to a solid career anymore, journalist Jeffrey J. Selingo asserts in his new book, “There Is Life After College.” Instead, confusion abounds regarding the paths students should take to maximize their odds of success. Troubled by what he describes as too many recent college graduates “drifting through their twenties without a plan,” Selingo has set out to provide a one-stop guide to the new perils, opportunities and choices associated with college and beyond.
Selingo’s book is bursting with fresh ideas and vivid examples, which makes it both exciting and exhausting to read. He’s got something to say about everything from gap years to bootcamps; he’s talked to everyone from tattooed word-workers to university presidents. Sometimes his reportorial wheels are spinning so fast that it’s hard to take in the implications of a particular quote or statistic before three new concepts have arrived.
All the same, the breadth and depth of Selingo’s expertise make him a uniquely good guide to what’s undeniably a complicated topic. Here are a dozen gems from the book that got me reaching for my Hi-Liter or underlining pen:
Put it all together, and Selingo’s biggest insight is that we shouldn’t be hunting for a one-size-fits-all approach to postsecondary education and the ensuing migration into the work world. Sprinters, wanderers and stragglers all need to find approaches that work best for them.
Yes, it can seem frustrating at first that, as Selingo observes, a job isn’t a trophy waiting for graduates as they walk off the stage at commencement. The workplace has become much more complex in recent years. But somewhere in the multitude of career-developing opportunities that he describes in his book, there’s probably a payoff for just about any reader.