When a panel of Bloomberg executives gathered at Bentley University’s PreparedU launch event, held at the media giant’s New York headquarters this past January, they emphasized one thing over and over: a college education should do more than just prepare students for jobs. This mirrors findings from Bentley’s preparedness research study, in which 74 percent of respondents affirmed the value of a college education in preparing students not only for their professional life but also for everything from pursuing a passion to contributing to society.
But for many students, the question sometimes can be how to go about it. Not surprisingly, when a handful of Bentley seniors gathered to reflect on their academic careers, the voice of experience rang through loud and clear.
“Looking back now, I wish that I had socialized more and struck a better balance with my studies,” said Ma-Kirah Wilkerson, a Management major at Bentley. “It would’ve helped me with my stress management.”
“I probably should’ve tried to build stronger relationships with my professors,” said Christiana Bakolas, a tri-captain of Bentley’s national champion women’s basketball team who’s majoring in Information Design and Corporate Communication. “They are great resources and a lot of them make themselves available to us students.”
“I can’t help but ask myself if I could have taken better advantage of what was going on around me and maybe made a bigger impact,” said Brian Shea, a Marketing major.
The students, soon to become workforce millennials, reached consensus on several pieces of advice they’d give to students who were just starting out as freshmen:
- You should start college with a real good idea of what you want to do after college. If you don’t know, work hard with your Career Services, Academic Advising, and counselling offices to identify interests and skills.
- Constantly challenge yourself, not only academically but socially.
- Be prepared to contribute, and not “contaminate.” Be known for your achievements and not for your negativity or cynicism.
- Put everything you have into your college career. You’ll never have such an opportunity again.
The Bentley seniors were also nearly unanimous in pointing out that improving their interpersonal communication skills was one of their more important accomplishments. Smart move: It’s identified as extremely important by corporate decision makers in the Bentley preparedness study.
“If you cannot communicate and learn to persuade, you’re in serious trouble,” Wilkerson said.
And what advice would the Bentley seniors give someone who is in the process of selecting a college and perhaps a major?
“What I would say to anyone just starting out is to look long term and plan it out,” said Bobby Smith, a marketing major. “Try to envision where you want to be in five to 10 years and pick the college and classes that give you the best chance of getting there.”
“Definitely do your research,” Bakolas added. “Ask a lot of questions. It’s important to look at college as a whole experience.”
Trisha Pal, an Economics-Finance major, offered this sound advice for high-school seniors who feel the pressure of selecting the right college:
“Listen to your parents,” she said, “because, other than yourself, no one probably knows you better.”
Shea, who remembers himself as a shy, unsure freshman when he first started out at Bentley, certainly understands the value of his college experience.
“College exceeded my expectations. I gained so much confidence while here. I never saw myself as leader before and now I am,” said Smith, the president of the Campus Activities Board at Bentley.
“I know it sounds cheesy,” he added, “but I got to spread my wings at college.”
Joe Halpern is a freelance writer.