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We are getting conflicting advice these days about higher education goals for our children and grandchildren. Most of this wisdom is well intentioned, but some of it is uninformed, biased or just plain wrong. Friends and relatives may say:Encourage your kids to concentrate on training for a specific trade or profession; that way, theyll be sure to get a job when they get out. Maybe, but will that particular hot profession still be actively hiring when they graduate, and can its entry-level position lead to future advancement and job satisfaction?

Avoid liberal arts courses like history or the arts; train instead for engineering or computer science. Probably reflecting students real-life assessments of actually getting a job, recent U.S. Department of Education statistics show that business ranked first, social sciences/history second, and visual/performing arts sixth among college degrees awarded in 2010- 2011. Engineering and computer/information sciences were lower at ninth and 13th, respectively. Unemployment for information systems graduates was 14.7 percent.

Take as many gut courses as you can to get easy high grades, because employers hiring decisions are based on your grade-point average. This advice is counterproductive to the attainment of a winning education. Superior interpersonal skills will carry graduates much further with recruiters than a high average with little else to back it up.

What advice should students be given in order to achieve success?

Most importantly, remember that one can never be finished with education. Earning a secondary, college or post-graduate degree is only the beginning. A recent Investors Business Daily article points out that Aristotle felt strongly that There is no end to learning, no matter how much education you have. Cliff Holekamp, a successful businessman and professor of entrepreneurship at Washington University in St. Louis, Mo., makes these points: People arent made successful by their degrees, but how they apply their educations. The individual student is ultimately responsible for their own personal development. Educating yourself includes getting the most out of your formal education as well as approaching the rest of your life as a learning opportunity. Psychologist B. F. Skinner adds, Education is what survives when what has been learned has been forgotten.

Education should be broad enough to adjust to changing circumstances. A high degree of specialization, to the limitation or exclusion of other subjects, is of dubious value because knowledge evolves very rapidly these days. In addition to a specific concentration, students should be exposed either in secondary school or at higher levels to subjects such as math, physics, chemistry, English, history, philosophy, the arts and languages in order to be well prepared for the future. As students or as graduates, they must learn to think logically, conceptually and independently and, of great importance, to clearly express themselves both orally and in writing.

Social skills, enhanced by lifelong learning, will enable student winners to talk easily with anyone, at any level, about almost anything. The resulting ability to relate well to other people can make the difference between ultimate success or failure.

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