What does the changing nature of work mean to higher ed?

These days, it’s more important what students do in college than where they go to college, argues Washington Post columnist and author Jeffrey Selingo.

“Employers want workers who have the ability to learn how to learn. In other words, the capability to find the answers to the questions of tomorrow that we cannot envision asking today,” he writes in his book College Unbound: The Future of Higher Education and What It Means for Students.

Selingo talked with AACRAO Connect in advance of his upcoming plenary presentation at the AACRAO SEM Conference in Phoenix.

“As counselors and admissions officers, we put a lot of emphasis on the college search when we’re talking with students and parents -- and not enough emphasis on what students do in college that leads to life after college,” he said.

Selingo spent two years talking with employers of all kinds and sizes--from the hot employers of Silicon Valley, such as Google, Ebay and Facebook--to Enterprise Rent-a Car, which hires more college graduates than any other business in the country. Then he looked at nationally-representative surveys of people in their mid-to-late 20s, that asked what experiences over the last ten years had led them to where they are today.

“That yielded interviews with people in colleges and after college to talk a little bit about their pathways through college,” Selingo said. “I learned a lot about what are the signature experiences students should be doing in college.”

One of Selingo’s most important conclusions? Experiential learning is key.

“To better align to the job market of the future, colleges need to make sure that experiential learning experiences, such as internships, are central to student’s education,” Selingo said. “Many colleges aren’t preparing students in those ways -- they may have just one internship late in their academic career.” But that isn’t sufficient for most jobs, Selingo said.

In the data analysis companies are doing on the employees who survive and thrive in the workplace, internships are a major predictor of success, Selingo said.

“The student’s major and institution don’t matter as much as they thought they would,” Selingo said. “These traditional markers of hiring aren’t as big of a predictor as experiential learning, like interning.”

Selingo will share further insight from his research during the closing plenary presentation at the AACRAO SEM Conference, Oct. 29-Nov. 1 in Phoenix, AZ. Register now.