Sometimes I wonder if students ponder the importance of experience, experience that comes in a variety of forms and permutations. Often I think it is because education provides a very linear platform for students to learn. They take a math class or a science class and they may that apply math to an economics course, but when it comes to wider connections students get confused. They tend to miss the overall connections to be made among subjects and how they all relate to the world beyond the classroom.
It is important to understand that this is not about directly going for a specific target. It’s understanding the overall role of education, its purpose, and the potential directions a well-rounded education can lead. While a general fan of IB, multiple AP, and even A Level courses, I think sometimes students miss the overall point of what each of these programs offers. The ability to learn to make connections, not only between subjects but how that cumulative base of education develops the critical thinking and analytical skills to be competitive in ones future, is the actual goal.
Why is all this important? There are times when students become too focused on the goal – how many AP’s do I need to take? What score do I need on the SAT? How many activities and what kind do I need to be competitive? Questions like these miss the whole point of what education is about. The focus is on the result and not the process and more importantly the understanding of the process in the cumulative thinking and experiential skills one attains, as well as the maturation that occurs over time.
Why is this happening? Partly because the message has been garbled. The message being that if I, the student, do not get accepted to X University, I will not be successful. So at whatever cost accumulate the accolades, certificates, scores, etc. to look “the best.” The problem with this approach is that it is hollow. Building a resume should be purposeful, with a goal in mind and not the goal being X University. Rather, the goal should be about experiencing new angles on things one is passionate about or taking the risk of trying something new. Colleges appreciate that students engage in and are able to reflect on activities and interests for the purposes of exploration, understanding, and personal growth. So the goal should be for purposes of academic, personal, or social growth.
Here is an example. At this time of the year, students are beginning to think about summer programs. Often students want to attend programs at HSPY thinking that this will “look good” to those very same schools to which they are planning to apply. Colleges, particularly HSPY, are not interested in where a student did their summer program. They are far more interested in what they did, why they engaged in that program, and what they learned through the process.
Understanding that learning happens everywhere all the time is an important factor in our development. It is the process of making connections between courses and factors related to the outside world that helps us make sense of the world we live in. Often it seems that materialism has gained far more emphasis than living a happy, productive life. Somehow the perception that wealth equals happiness has won out.
It’s not that wealth, in and of itself, is a bad thing. It is worrisome when we all forget that there is a process and appreciation of the things we have that matters most.
Hamilton Gregg is the founder of International Educational Consulting and has worked in education since 1985. He helps students and their families understand their personal and educational needs and find the right school to meet their requirements. If you are a student or parent who would like to ask Gregg a question on our blog, please email email@example.com