Tag Archives: college

Cheating Is the New Normal

Pensive guyIf you’ve studied social psychology, economics, sociology, or law, you’ve probably heard of “The Tragedy of the Commons.”  The story goes like this: A long time ago, towns used to have a “common”—a shared field or piece of land—where people let their cattle graze.  In order for there to be enough grass for all the cattle, people had to take turns letting their cows graze on the common.  The tragedy occurred when some people decided to secretly bring their cows in at night to let them eat extra grass.  When only a few “cheaters” did it, they might have gotten away with it, but when enough people did it, the grass died, and the resource dried up for everyone.

I was talking to a former athlete this morning about how it’s more common for people to take a gap year in between high school and college than it used to be.  He said that people used to do it in sports to take a year to lift weights and get bigger and stronger to be more competitive in college football.  He said, back then, they called them “cheaters” and taunted them.  But today, this kind of behavior is completely normal and accepted.

Have you noticed that, today, it’s normal and accepted to use every loophole, advantage, tutor, coach, and even cross the line to exaggerate the truth or have others do the work for you to get ahead of the competition to get into college, to get a job, to get elected, or simply to get anything you want?  It’s so normal, in fact, that we don’t even flinch anymore when we see it.  We just sigh and lament how things are today.  And, if we have the resources, we tend to jump on board.  I hear over and over again, “I’m afraid if we don’t do it, we’ll be left behind.”

Today’s tragedy is coming about in a different way than the commons of yesteryear.  We are cheating the system and destroying it in the process.  Our individualism is spoiling the commons—our common resources, our communities, and our unitedness—and it’s spreading around the world.  Look at the environment for an obvious example.  It’s okay for a few people to pollute, but when many people do it, the atmosphere gets destroyed and global warming impacts us all.

This whole conversation started when the former athlete said that he overheard one affluent mother in a coffee shop telling another that her kid just got back from a college tour in Sweden.  The other affluent mother responded by saying hers had just returned from a college tour in Norway.  Now, you may have heard that studying abroad can be less expensive than attending college in the States, but, for the most part, that is not true.  Even if tuition is cheaper, the travel and living expenses can be quite high.  In any case, undergraduates from the most affluent families are up to five times more likely to go abroad as part of their degree than less privileged students, a new study says.

Why is this important?  Because so many people are trying to cheat the college system in our country that it’s become a less desirable resource.  The cost to get into college is so much higher than it used to be—both financially and because of the toll it takes on the children spending every waking hour boosting their resumes and test scores to get in.  What’s more, college students are increasingly anxious, tuition costs are skyrocketing, and, because so many people have college degrees now, the degree means less.

It’s even more tragic because the people who could benefit the most from a college degree—poor and middle-class Americans—get the least benefit because they incur so much debt.  But no worries for the rich, because as the American college system dries up, the rich increasingly use their resources to send their kids abroad to get educated.  And so it goes.

 

The Quarter Life Crisis

puppy-2-1379050I saw the play Tiger Style! last night.  The story is about two seemingly successful 20-something Harvard grads who are actually falling apart inside.  As a doctor and a computer programmer, they both have achieved success in their parents’ and society’s eyes, but they are in crisis because they don’t know who they are.

They blame their parents for promising them success and assuming happiness came along with it if they dedicated their lives to achievement.  But when they are finally in these high-status, well-paid jobs, they realize they never stopped to figure out if this is what they wanted along the way.  Indeed, these empty careers mean nothing to them.

Who am I?  Where does love fit in?  Where’s the fun?  What’s this all for?  These are the questions of the “quarter life crisis.” 

The quarter life crisis is a newly coined phenomenon, an accelerated form of the midlife crisis.  Why is it happening?  Why are so many 25-year-olds having identity crises that there’s a new name for it?  Because this generation of kids was never allowed to explore their identities during adolescence.  Instead, they were directed (and often pushed) into the singular path of going to the best college they could get into.

The fallacy of the college dream is that it assumes this path leads to happiness and success in life.  Sadly, it’s taken a generation of 20-somethings in crisis to show us the error in our thinking.

College is one path to success and happiness in life.  It is not the path.  There is no one-size-fits-all solution to success and happiness in life.  Each person has to figure it out along the way.

Probably one of the biggest disappointments in life is when your child wants to do something different from what you want them to do.  Face it: there is a good chance that will happen to you, no matter how much your force your dreams down their throat.  They are their own people and they have to figure it out for themselves.

No More “Gaming” Community Service

turning the tide graphicCollege admissions personnel are catching on to applicants who try to game the system and they’ve banded together to make changes.

The Turning the Tide: Inspiring Concern for Others and the Common Good through College Admissions report offers several recommendations to reshape the college admissions process to promote greater ethical engagement among aspiring students, reduce excessive achievement pressure, and level the playing field for economically disadvantaged students. The Harvard Graduate School of Education led the collaborative effort and over 80 key stakeholders in college admissions endorsed the recommendations.

A key theme in the report is that the pressure to get into college has led students and parents to “game” the community service element of the admissions process and ignore its true purpose—to be aware of and help those who need it.  The community service “war games” have driven applicants to try to outdo each other by engaging in expensive, high profile, exotic endeavors that are brief and meaningless to them, just to get noticed by college admissions. Continue reading No More “Gaming” Community Service

Stopping Stimulant Abuse among Young Workers

prescription drugsMillennials are experiencing work stress and burnout at disturbingly high rates. Previously, career burnout was a midlife issue. Now it is happening early on, at the beginning of people’s careers.

Young workers are showing signs of burnout by asking for time off or reduced work hours, or are opting out altogether and moving back with their parents. There is also a trend for young people to start their own companies that have more relaxed work schedules. Other signs include the increased use of alternative relaxation methods, such as yoga, meditation, and acupuncture. These are the healthy ways to handle stress.

The problem is, a growing number of young workers are not handling stress in a healthy way. They are turning to drugs—namely performance enhancement drugs, such as Adderall and other stimulants. In recent years, use of A.D.H.D. medication has almost doubled among adults 26 to 34, according to a New York Times investigation. And this is only measured as prescription use.

Many young workers are getting drugs illegally. In prescription form, young adults are getting rapid and incomplete ADHD diagnoses to procure the drug and are sometimes going to multiple doctors to get multiple prescriptions. In non-prescription form, young adults are buying it from dealers. Either way, they are taking too much.stress

Young workers report high performance expectations and levels of competition are reasons for turning to stimulant abuse. Abuse of performance enhancement drugs has been going on in colleges for a while. These same students are growing up and continuing the abuse as they enter the workplace.

Burnout and drug abuse are caused because healthy coping mechanisms are missing. One contributing factor is that the millennial generation has been raised by overprotective parents who have not given their kids opportunities to develop resilience and coping strategies. Instead, they have placed high levels of stress and extraordinary expectations for achievement on their children.

relaxNow that millennials are grown up, it is time for them to develop healthy coping mechanisms for work demands and stress. Running away and turning to drugs won’t fix the problem. Developing resilience and setting reasonable expectations for success will.

Get Out Of The Way Of Your Kids’ Success

bulldozer“Doing it for them” is one of the things parents are doing to get in the way of their children’s success. “Guidance and support” are ways to get out of the way and let them succeed on their own.

Joanie ConnJenningsWire_Banner_LOGO_2015ell gives tips on how parents can get out of the way of their children’s success in this podcast interview on JenningsWire.

Dr. Connell answers the following questions in this 8-minute interview.

  • What is one of the biggest challenges young employees are facing right now?
  • How are you getting in the way of your kids’ success?
  • How can I help my kids be more successful as adults?
  • Why should you stop worrying about which college your kid goes to?
  • How can you turn your kid into someone you’d like to hire?

Forget Physical Fitness, Get the Right Job Fit!

happy face in sad facesOne day, I was called in to give feedback to a company’s leaders on one of their directors who had been through our assessment center. The meeting was curious to begin with, since exceptionally high-level people were there. The meeting was called unexpectedly after being put off for months after the completion of the assessment center program. But, being a consultant, I was used to flexing to the whims of clients.

Within minutes, it was clear the meeting was not a typical collaborative evaluation of an executive, with people from inside and outside of the company bringing their observations to the table. It was a meeting to develop a case to fire the director for not being able to manage the relationships in a business alliance under his charge.

The director was a smart, talented technical expert. He was not, however, skilled at building rapport and managing conflict. In the field, we call this a “derailing” factor. In other words, he was derailed from his upwardly mobile track because he did not have people skills.

This is, unfortunately, a very common occurrence in organizations. It would have been better for the director if he had learned people skills or, even better, taken a job that better leveraged his technical skills.

I coached another mismatched director—a very smart and talented woman who was an extreme introvert, who preferred to work alone. You can only imagine how absolutely miserable this woman was, when her job was to manage personal relationships among her team, her peers, and the board. She was desperate to change jobs without burning any bridges in the process. Unfortunately, this is also a common occurrence, especially in technology-based companies.

Sometimes it is not about competence, but it is about job fit. The earlier you learn that, the less time you waste in unpleasant job situations.

Job fit is important at all levels in an organization—manager, employee, consultant, business owner, and so on. College students choose “majors,” fields of study that hopefully hold their interest and in which they get good grades. Of equal or greater importance, however, are the work environment and tasks associated with a particular job.

For example, I had planned to be a therapist before I applied to graduate school in psychology. But after talking to a couple of therapists, I found out that it was a very passive job, where you sit in a room all day and wait for people to come to you. It was not at all a good fit for me. I was so glad I had done the research ahead of time to learn what the work environment was like. I recommend you do the same.

9 Success Factors at Work

man with business cardA college education is important, but learning from real life experiences is more.

Fifty executives at a large pharmaceutical company went through an assessment center to help the company develop its talent pipeline. They were assessed on sixteen competencies, or success factors. “Technical expertise” (what you learn in college) was just one factor; being socially agile, building strategic relationships, influencing others, maintaining composure under pressure, and driving change were among the fifteen other critical factors that are not taught in college.

Here are nine real life factors that typically contribute to an employee’s success in a job.

  • Leadership, courage, and decision-making ability
  • Social agility, being a team player, and building relationships
  • Communication and influence
  • Creativity, innovation, and entrepreneurialism
  • Planning and execution
  • Facilitating and adapting to change; resilience
  • Drive for results
  • Self-awareness and self-development
  • Integrity and organizational values

Joanie teaching at NU 3How do we learn these skills, if not in college? By taking on responsibility, venturing into unchartered ground, and taking time out to reflect.

What are some actions that you are taking to develop these skills? I’d love to hear your comments.

man on computerThe factor I’m learning the most on right now is communication and influence. I’ve broadened my reach to social networking. Learning how to communicate on the internet and how to be heard are two important skills that I certainly didn’t learn in college!

Breaking Away: Is the College Transition Harder for Parents or Students?

waving goodbyeBy Joanie Connell

College is a transition period between living at home and living independently. At college, emerging adults tend to still be dependent on their parents financially, but the idea is for them to start to figure out how to live on their own. They have to manage their schedules, get to and from classes, eat either in the dining facilities or prepare meals on their own, and figure out how to navigate life without their parents at hand.

Millennials have been preparing their college applications (or their parents have been) since they were toddlers. They are more educated, coached, tutored, and accomplished than any previous generation. You would think that would make them even better prepared for college, but that is not necessarily so. Their over preparedness is missing a key ingredient: independence. Continue reading Breaking Away: Is the College Transition Harder for Parents or Students?