For some, attaining a higher education degree (or several) is a clear path towards an ideal life. For others, that may not be the case. But the structure of today's society favors those with degrees. Not every student fits into this box - how do we help all young people achieve the education they want and need to succeed?
Through a series of in-depth interviews with young adults with varying levels of degrees, I sought to find the value of higher education, according to young people themselves. Did their degrees help them get careers they wanted? What learning experiences were actually most valuable in helping them determine their ideal careers and life plans?
The image below details the paths of the people I interviewed, and examines trends in their experiences. Below you can find the transcripts from some of the interviews I conducted, as well as a proposed product to meet the needs of those that I interviewed.
What school did you attend/are you currently attending? What was/is your major? If you are no longer in school, what year did you leave/graduate?
- Did you always want to pursue this major or were you inspired while in school?
- Do you wish you could have changed/expanded your major while you were in school/after you graduated? Do you wish you could/plan to change your major while you are in school?
- If you transferred, what school did you transfer to and why? How was your experience at the new school different than the old one?
- Did you have any internships while in school? Did they provide job opportunities once you graduated?
- Were the internships related to your major? If not, did you become interested in the subject after interning there?
- How important of a role do you think real-life experience like internships play during the time you are in school?
- Did your/your family’s ability (or lack thereof) to pay for your education affect your school experience/career choices?
- Do you feel that your school provided any assistance in your career search? If yes, how? If not, what could the school have done to make this experience more successful for you?
- Did/do you have a non-school related job while you were in college? Did/do you need to have it for financial reasons? Was/is it a hindrance to your academic experience?
- If you did not attend 4 years of college, why? Do you think you will go back to school?
- How important do you feel the subjects you learned/are learning in school are/will be to your experience in the real world?
After conducting these interviews, it was clear that each interviewee had a very different education experience. One thread that remained consistent throughout was the importance of having real-world experiences (e.g. jobs, internships) while in school.
Considering this, I proposed creating a social networking database that connects undergraduate students with real-life experiences and information.
- After registering for the site (using a student ID), users will tag their profile with their interests and future goals. These tags will connect them with other undergraduate students with the same tags, as well as make them visible to alumni and possible employers seeking interns who selected any of these tags.
- Users will also be able to follow others users. They will be updated when the people they follow post in a discussion forum or add new internship experiences to their profile.
- Users will be able to connect with alumni, who will serve as mentors on the site. Alumni have the option to choose whether they would like to share their page exclusively with undergrads from their alma mater, or if they would like to open their page up to anyone shares any of their tags.
- On the forum section of the site, undergrads will be able to communicate with all participating alumni about their post-grad, real-world experiences.