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How (and why) to get the most out of business school

March 17, 2020

The unemployment rate for recent college graduates is higher than that of the general public. Here we explain how to avoid joining that majority.

6 min read

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How (and why) to get the most out of business schoolHow (and why) to get the most out of business school

It has long been statistically real that those with a college degree earn more money in their lifetime than people who did not complete college. For a long time, college has been one of the best investments of time, energy, and money that a young professional could make. However, today that is less and less true.

Part of the reason is the meteoric rise in university prices. According to the United States National Center for University Statistics , the cost of university degrees rose by 178 percent between 1995.'96 and 2016-'17. And the statistics do not vary much for masters and doctorates.

To compound the situation, the New York Federal Reserve has just reported that the unemployment rate for recent college graduates is slightly higher than that of the general public, something that hasn't happened in decades. And of graduates who have found work, two out of five are in positions that do not require a college degree.

This trend does not appear to be changing anytime soon. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics , the US economy estimates to continue creating these low-income jobs that do not require college degrees.

However, this is not the full story. In fact, there is a significant lack of people for “white collar” businesses, or for those jobs that require certain non-traditional skills such as data analysis, computing, and engineering. Why aren't students looking for these jobs that do abound and do pay well? Put simply: Business schools are not up to date with the constant needs and changes of the market, and worse, students tend to avoid non-traditional and more difficult classes.

So how can students, and professionals seeking change, make the most of college? Here we leave you some tips to get the best return on investment for what you are going to pay at school.

Find your purpose

Before even thinking about college, students need to have a plan that includes a serious and conscious effort to identify and understand why they want or need to go to school. It all starts with a personal vision (purpose) and a series of specific and measurable goals. It's also worth researching the skills necessary for the job you want, and then looking for classes that will help you build your vision.

And in the end, if you decide that you don't need to go to college, or that there is a faster and less expensive way to achieve your academic goals, then take it into account.

Prioritize the experience

Today, many recruiters are looking for more relevant experience than academic achievement, because what sets new graduates apart is a proven ability to perform. For young students or career changers, this can be a frustrating puzzle: How do you get experience if no one is willing to hire you?

Find jobs and internships during school that correspond to your career, rather than jobs that just pay you well, like working in a restaurant or bar. Students understandably have to pay bills and eat, but the actual experience will provide more lasting benefits if you are willing to make the sacrifice in the short term.

Take a more active role

There is no shortage of student groups and organizations to join, from the finance club to the marketing association to the soccer team. The problem is that many students join these groups, but they never take an active role. They go to a couple of meetings at the beginning, believing that having this in their CV will make them look better. Recruiters are actually looking for committed people, not just recruited.

Also, choose well the organizations you are going to join. Look for those that offer events, networks and opportunities to connect with people in your industry. And if this group does not exist in your school, then take the baton and create it.

Relate, Relate, Relate

There are few better opportunities than the university to create professional networks. By meeting and interacting with teachers in your field of interest, you can create a list of people who can promote you and talk about your initiative and ambition. Go to events and make a dedicated effort to meet everyone in person. Then connect with them on LinkedIn or send a thank you note. Great professional networks happen over time, so start building them early.

Finally, don't overlook the value of your classmates. Someday, your network of colleagues, those who shared the same experience, will end up being your support system, either to start a business and find a co-founder or simply to look for work. And generally speaking, these people will end up being your friends for life.

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