Balancing General Skills and Major Learning

One area that colleges need to decide is whether focusing on student learning and growing the ability to learn is going to have a larger positive effect on student postgraduate success than focusing on a specific area of expertise.  This focusing on a specific area of expertise, known as a major, has formed the bedrock of undergraduate education for many decades.  Selingo argues that the ability to think “critically”, have good oral/writing skills, ability to stay motivated, ability to fail well, and ability to make friends and get along with others is more important than forming a specific area of expertise in the form of a major.


My opinion falls somewhere in the middle of Selingo’s model and the traditional study of a specific area.  I believe that all of the above characteristics should be formed (and college should focus on helping students form these characteristics) while students study a semi-specific field of study.  For example, it would be useful for a student to develop general skills while studying a general field like engineering or literature, instead of going “all-in” on specific fields like biomedical engineering or Russian literature.  The idea of studying a generalized field instead of a specific one reflects the current labor climate and how trends develop quicker than they did a few decades ago.

Selingo also talks about an idea that that I talked about in my second essay.  This idea is that there should be an intermediary step between high school and college.  In many countries this includes public service, local college, a job, or military service.  In my essay, I argued that going to community college before entering college or university would be a good way to develop general skills needed in college.  Overall, this could be a good idea for many students to mature and figure out what they want to do with their future careers.


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