High schoolers vs. college students: Who's more career-minded?


Earlier this week, I went to lunch with 12 other parents from my daughter's 5th grade class. Several of the parents had children in high school as well. Topic of conversation? Service hours. The high school requires a certain number of community service hours in order for the students to receive credit for the year. These moms were swapping information about where their high schoolers could fulfill this requirement.

Now, I'm all in favor of service (although forced service is not actually volunteerism, as the school likes to claim, but that's another topic), and these parents are great parents with great kids. But, note that they were doing a lot of the leg work for finding the opportunities, and their children had little choice -- either participate or flunk.

So, when I saw a survey by Millenial Branding that stated that high schoolers were more career-minded than their college counterparts -- and as evidence they said high schoolers are more likely to look for volunteer opportunities than college students, I simply laughed. Of course they are. If they don't, they don't graduate. This is evidence of student mindset, it's evidence of administrator and legislator mindsets.

The study also reported that internships are popular among high school students. This is a fabulous thing, and American students only stand to benefit from programs that teach them what the real world is like. The more internships that are available, the better. (However, keep in mind that in order for an internship to be legal, the student must either be paid, or strict rules must be met.) 

But again, who is finding and encouraging these internships? Is it the students, or is it mom and dad looking to get junior into the best college possible? I suspect it's a lot of the latter.

When we attribute motives to the actions of students (and any other groups, really) we need to look at why they are acting the way that they are. If internships didn't help you get into college, would as many students be doing them? If high schools didn't have a service hours requirement, would as many high schoolers be out doing "service" in the community? I seriously doubt it.

It seems that it is more the environment than the internal drive of the students. For this reason, another study by Millenial Branding declared only the obvious. This 2012 study declared, "College students are not experts at branding themselves. Despite how savvy Millennials are with technology, most (93 percent) do not have an understanding of personal branding." Ha, ha, ha! Of course they are not. What exactly are most college students experts in?  Not much. They are students. That term tells us they are still learning things. 

Another finding? "College students are lacking in professional development." Anyone surprised by that? Most people in mid career are lacking in professional development. Why on earth would we expect college students to not be lacking in professional development?

Society has, in many school districts, determined that community service hours are important for high school students. As a result, they made it a requirement and now high school students do more service hours than college students. If we want college students to be more career-minded, then colleges can achieve that by making requirements regarding internships and "volunteering." Additionally, Congress can loosen the regulations on internships, making it more likely that companies will offer them.

I would bet college students are actually more concerned about careers than high school students are. They just have different motivating factors -- and their parents aren't arranging nearly as much for them as they did when they were in high school.