College is a time for young adults to acquire critical thinking and problem solving skills in order to become upstanding citizens and professionals. Last week, The Wall Street Journal reported that a surprising number of college graduates lack the complex reasoning skills to manage in the white-collar work force. According to the report, four out of ten recent college graduates do not have the critical thinking skills necessary to construct a cohesive argument, identify a logical fallacy, or read a scatterplot.
The findings come from a comprehensive exam called the Collegiate Learning Assessment Plus, which was administered to 32,000 students from 169 universities to see how much cognitive growth occurred between freshman and senior years. Shockingly, seniors only slightly exceeded the average score of their freshmen counterparts, which implies that after four supposedly “transformative years” of academic rigor, many students graduate only somewhat smarter than when they came in.
This study has huge implications in the job market as employers take these skills into consideration when assessing college students as potential employees. Going to a good school, having a 4.0 GPA, and studying certain subject areas get you to the door of employment, but reasoning and analysis skills are the only keys that will open that door to your desired career path.
Employers know that their candidates are at least somewhat intelligent because they attended college, but displaying critical thinking skills distinguishes the perfect candidate from the rejections. No white-collar employer wants a candidate that they do not trust with the more important tasks later on in his career or someone who can ruin the reputation of the company because of incompetence. In fact, the American Association of Colleges and Universities reports that nine out of ten employers judge recent college graduates to lack reasoning, communication and problem solving skills.
The main issue with many colleges in the United States is that administrations tend to focus too much on the social aspects of college life that attract applicants and please undergraduates. Instead of fostering intellectual conversations, universities spend millions of dollars maintaining their luscious lawns, exercise facilities, and unnecessary grandiose amenities. A university is supposed to feel like home, but it shouldn’t be a plush penthouse where students reminisce about the awesomeness of their own personal lives.
Those who plan on spending all of their time in college getting easy As and partying will graduate with little more than a degree in four years. The only way to foster critical thinking is to ask difficult philosophical questions about what’s going on across the globe, talk about influential people and events we may not have recollections of, and to ask the hard questions about injustice in our society and how to address them upon graduation.
As students of Boston College, we’re fortunate in that our curriculum is designed to make us think critically about different disciplines. While we may try to get it done as quickly as possible, the Core is supposed to make us well rounded in fields outside of our major so that we can adapt to any job market or career. If you utilize the Core wisely and take engaging classes that not only challenge but also interest you, that experience will help you into any career path you choose to undertake.
Critical thinking is not only fostered in the classroom, but sometimes in the organizations we choose to be involved in. Taking a leadership role or joining something completely outside of your studies allows you to analyze the people or responsibilities you may have for that organization. Some of us might have chosen to come to Boston College because it looks good on a job application, but just going to BC will not get us through the door of opportunity unless we exhibit the critical thinking, communicative, and problem solving skills employers are looking for fostered through academically challenging classes and extracurricular activities.
College is a major investment for not only parents and students alike, as we pray to find a job upon graduation. The last thing you want to do after receiving your diploma from Boston College is come to the realization that you wasted four years and hundreds of thousands of dollars without being able to articulate or exhibit the critical thinking skills that will help you find employment. With that in mind, we should strive every day through the things that we choose to do to not only find employment, but to show employers that not all college graduates lack the ability to function in the white-collar workforce.