National Affairs, Fall 2009.
Imagine a high-school senior who is trying to decide whether to go to college. He walks into the office of his school’s counselor and asks for help in making up his mind. The counselor knows that this student’s grades are Bs and Cs, and that his motivation and industriousness are fine, but nothing special. He is considering some college majors that sound interesting to him, but he does not have a passion for any of them. In fact, as the counselor talks to the student, she discovers that what he really enjoys is working with his hands. The idea of sitting in an office does not appeal to him. But his parents have their hearts set on their son’s getting a college degree, and most of his friends will be going to college next fall.
What information should the counselor give to the student to help him decide? We know what she is likely to say: A survey of high-school students revealed that more than 90% of them were encouraged by their high-school counselors to go to college. But what does this student really need to know?