Thursday, November 1, 2007

Real World vs. College

Ben Casnocha, an entrepreneur, author and college student who's blog I read quite frequently, recently posted some interesting thoughts on the difference between college and the real world. Although I've only been in the "real world" for just over a year I find the thoughts quite accurate. He writes:

"How much does college prepare you for the real world? That's a question I'll be thinking about in the coming months and years.

One big difference between college and the real world is that college is an information-rich environment which makes it very easy to track your progress (and be motivated) day-by-day.

In college you constantly receive reports on your progress. You turn in assignments, you receive grades. Rarely does a week go by without some affirmation or refutation of effort from an all-knowing expert (professor, advisor, whoever).

In the real world, best I can tell, the information you receive from your "market" (customers, boss, whoever) is far more ambiguous. Anyone who's built a company knows that months can go by without clear feedback about whether you're on the right track. Indeed, sometimes it takes months of unyielding effort with your head down before you figure out whether you're creating something of value.

The most successful people I've met in the real world have a tolerance for ambiguity and are self-motivated enough to take care of business even if there aren't routine, external validations or challenges.

So do college students get spoiled by the constant information delivery and assessments that's part of structured education? Is there a risk that such an explicit reward system will retard a student's ability to be intrinsically motivated? Will a student, upon graduation, be able to apply consistent effort without receiving a decisive "A" or "B" for each of his tasks?"

I honestly believe that the primary and secondary education systems create an even greater alter-reality when they focus so heavily on building a student's self-confidence. The reluctance of most teachers to hand out a D, C, or even B in some cases is ridiculous and is creating a generation in constant need of praise and affirmation...just ask the managers of today's companies.

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1 comment:

Tom said...

it's not the amount of information in the environment, but the artificial quantifying of the student's actions that make it easier to "track your progress day to day." This is kind of alluded to in later paragraphs so i guess the main reason why i bring this up is just to point out that the magnitude of information stays the same or even increases but the difference, in my mind, is in your ability to set criteria for yourself and find the differences that matter when sifting through and acting in new, continually changing environments.