“Signature Learning,” “Knowledge in Action,” and “High Impact Learning Experiences” are just some of the fancy titles colleges are naming their experiential learning programs. Why are colleges emphasizing hands-on opportunities?
Prospective college students and their families are focusing on college graduation outcomes: job placement, salaries and graduate school acceptances. Meanwhile, employers are seeking college graduates who have real world work experience through internships, jobs, research and co-ops. Colleges and universities are listening. Many schools are creating new programs where students are encouraged to engage in at least one outside the classroom learning opportunity.
Last month, I had the pleasure of visiting Lycoming College, in Williamsport, PA. The President of Lycoming College, Kent Tratchte, told us that the college received a positive score from the National Institute of Student Engagement, in part, as a result of Lycoming’s “High Impact Learning Experience” program. Lycoming encourages all students to participate in at least one study abroad, research, internship or community service opportunity. The college actively seeks partnerships with alumni and the community to develop new opportunities for students to gain work experience.
Earlier this fall, I visited The George Washington University, in Washington, D.C., where the Associate Director of Admissions, Lucy Young, spoke about the university’s “Knowledge in Action” program. Ms. Young told us that it is part of the GW culture to participate in research and internships on campus, in D.C. and beyond. She continued by saying that it is common for students at GW to have two or more internships before graduation. Internships give students the opportunity to not only gain valuable experience but to also network. The “Knowledge in Action Fund” fiscally compensates eligible students who participate in internships when employers do not have the resources to pay students for their work.
Colleges and universities are restructuring their on-campus career services and encouraging students to utilize their resources well before senior year. Many colleges are reaching out to students as early as freshman year to introduce them to on-campus career services.
Connecticut College’s Career Enhancing Life Skills (CELS) is a four-year program, where students plan coursework and activities that lead to a career related, college- funded internship. Beginning freshman year, students are required to attend CELS workshops and are paired with personal career advisors. Nearly ninety-percent of Conn students finish the program and participate in college-funded internships between their junior and senior years with a $3,000 stipend.
Today, experiential learning is an important component in a college education.. These hands-on experiences enable students to develop valuable skills and give them a glimpse into future careers. During college visits or college fairs, prospective students should inquire about a college’s commitment to experiential learning and on-campus career services.
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