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6 Questions To Ask Yourself When Choosing a College

6 Questions To Ask Yourself When Choosing a College

Choosing a college requires academic, professional, and personal considerations. However, some prospective students focus too much on a single aspect of college life, to the exclusion of other interrelated (and important!) factors.

Sure, you have your heart set on going to a private university with a strong lacrosse program on the opposite end of the country. But can you afford the tuition, and are your prepared to forfeit frequent trips home?

Maybe you want to avoid living in the city, but as an aspiring veterinarian, know some of the best undergraduate veterinary programs are at urban universities.

You might be someone who already has outside obligations, like being a parent or having a job commitment, and you need a convenient setting for getting your degree quickly without significant financial investment.

Transferring schools can be part of a strategic plan for getting into your dream college, but unexpected switching is costly and wastes time. Get it right the first time by asking yourself the following six questions when determining where to apply to college.

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1. Where is my ideal location?

Is it important for you to see your parents every holiday? If you live more than a few hours away, you might not be able to get home for Thanksgiving. Conversely, if you want a situation where your parents can’t just “drop by” on a Friday night, don’t choose a campus 15 minutes down the road.

A good distance for many students is 3-5 hours from home–you are close enough that you can get back relatively easily when you need to, but not so near that you can run home every time you have a bad day.

Beyond proximity to home, think about whether or not you prefer an urban or rural-based campus. There are advantages to both: living in a city affords you more of an escape from the campus “bubble,” while the rural school provides a more insular college experience and tight-knit academic community.

2. What size school is best for me?

Consider three aspects of a school’s size when applying to college. First, look at the overall student body. Are there 50,000 undergraduates on campus? 1,200? Do you want to meet as many people as possible, or feel like you know most of your classmates?

Second, how big is the campus? Some people want to be able to walk to every class, and need a campus that is relatively easy to traverse on foot. However, most urban campuses will sprawl over a larger area, requiring students to be strategic about getting between classes quickly.

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Finally, look at the teacher-to-student ratio. If it’s important for you to develop relationships with your professors or receive more attention in class, avoid enormous schools where your smallest classes still have fifty-some people.

3. Wait, how much is this going to cost?

You can’t put a price on education. But schools sure can put a price on educating you.

Public schools will almost always be less expensive than private colleges, and if you live in-state, your tuition could be even lower.

Work out a budget with your parents if they are helping you pay for school. If you’re on your own, figure out what you can afford to pay after investigating your options for external funding. Do the schools you’re looking at offer merit-based scholarships or financial aid? Are you willing to take out student loans? Perhaps you might consider a program like ROTC, where you make a service commitment in exchange for a college education.

4. Does the school serve my academic and professional interests?

Maybe you don’t know exactly what you want to do after graduating, but you want to strengthen your analytical and research skills. Look for high-ranking liberal arts programs. Or perhaps you are more technically inclined and want a hands-on environment or laboratory experience; in that case, apply to schools that have a reputation for strong science and technology departments.

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If you know precisely what you want to do during and after college, look for colleges that will support your ambitions. For example, if you are intent on becoming a lawyer, find an undergraduate program with a high rate of graduating students who get into law school. Also consider whether the school’s alumni actively recruit current students for internships and jobs.

5. What kind of social life are you looking for?

Is studying abroad important to you? See how opportunities to travel and study abroad are folded into college programs.

If basketball, football, or rowing is a huge part of your life and makes you happy, look for schools where you might have an opportunity to play–even if that just means in an intramural league.

Or maybe you have a cause–feeding the hungry, working at an animal shelter, or doing volunteer work abroad. Investigate volunteer opportunities at prospective schools so you can continue doing something you value.

Not all schools have the Greek Life system, so if you’ve always wanted to join a sorority or fraternity, make sure they are available. Conversely, if someone couldn’t pay you to join a frat, look into the degree to which Greek Life permeates a prospective school’s social scene.

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6. Can I see myself happy here?

What you want out of school will vary from person to person. If you’re living at home, maybe you need a place where you can still make friends and feel included. But if you are moving to another state to live on campus, it’s important that you feel comfortable calling the school “home” for the next 2-5 years.

More importantly, are there opportunities for you to grow, both academically and personally? If you change your mind about what you want to study or your intended career path, will it be relatively simple to switch tracks? You want a school that recognizes the value in letting students experiment with different areas of study, while respecting a healthy work-life balance.

Everyone is giving me advice. Who’s right?

While it is worth soliciting advice from a trusted parent, advisor, or friend, ultimately it is best to honor your own preferences and needs. You are the one who is going to be going to the classes, writing the papers, and taking the tests. So don’t choose a school based solely on where your favorite uncle went, or where your girlfriend is going.

Apply to schools you actually want to attend.

And choose a college where you will flourish, personally and academically.

How did you pick the right school for you? Leave a comment and let us know.

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The Productivity Paradox: What Is It And How Can We Move Beyond It?

The Productivity Paradox: What Is It And How Can We Move Beyond It?

It’s a depressing adage we’ve all heard time and time again: An increase in technology does not necessarily translate to an increase in productivity.

Put another way by Robert Solow, a Nobel laureate in economics,

“You can see the computer age everywhere but in the productivity statistics.”

In other words, just because our computers are getting faster, that doesn’t mean that that we will have an equivalent leap in productivity. In fact, the opposite may be true!

New York Times writer Matt Richel wrote in an article for the paper back in 2008 that stated, “Statistical and anecdotal evidence mounts that the same technology tools that have led to improvements in productivity can be counterproductive if overused.”

There’s a strange paradox when it comes to productivity. Rather than an exponential curve, our productivity will eventually reach a plateau, even with advances in technology.

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So what does that mean for our personal levels of productivity? And what does this mean for our economy as a whole? Here’s what you should know about the productivity paradox, its causes, and what possible solutions we may have to combat it.

What is the productivity paradox?

There is a discrepancy between the investment in IT growth and the national level of productivity and productive output. The term “productivity paradox” became popularized after being used in the title of a 1993 paper by MIT’s Erik Brynjolfsson, a Professor of Management at the MIT Sloan School of Management, and the Director of the MIT Center for Digital Business.

In his paper, Brynjolfsson argued that while there doesn’t seem to be a direct, measurable correlation between improvements in IT and improvements in output, this might be more of a reflection on how productive output is measured and tracked.[1]

He wrote in his conclusion:

“Intangibles such as better responsiveness to customers and increased coordination with suppliers do not always increase the amount or even intrinsic quality of output, but they do help make sure it arrives at the right time, at the right place, with the right attributes for each customer.

Just as managers look beyond “productivity” for some of the benefits of IT, so must researchers be prepared to look beyond conventional productivity measurement techniques.”

How do we measure productivity anyway?

And this brings up a good point. How exactly is productivity measured?

In the case of the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, productivity gain is measured as the percentage change in gross domestic product per hour of labor.

But other publications such as US Today, argue that this is not the best way to track productivity, and instead use something called Total Factor Productivity (TFP). According to US Today, TFP “examines revenue per employee after subtracting productivity improvements that result from increases in capital assets, under the assumption that an investment in modern plants, equipment and technology automatically improves productivity.”[2]

In other words, this method weighs productivity changes by how much improvement there is since the last time productivity stats were gathered.

But if we can’t even agree on the best way to track productivity, then how can we know for certain if we’ve entered the productivity paradox?

Possible causes of the productivity paradox

Brynjolfsson argued that there are four probable causes for the paradox:

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  • Mis-measurement – The gains are real but our current measures miss them.
  • Redistribution – There are private gains, but they come at the expense of other firms and individuals, leaving little net gain.
  • Time lags – The gains take a long time to show up.
  • Mismanagement – There are no gains because of the unusual difficulties in managing IT or information itself.

There seems to be some evidence to support the mis-measurement theory as shown above. Another promising candidate is the time lag, which is supported by the work of Paul David, an economist at Oxford University.

According to an article in The Economist, his research has shown that productivity growth did not accelerate until 40 years after the introduction of electric power in the early 1880s.[3] This was partly because it took until 1920 for at least half of American industrial machinery to be powered by electricity.”

Therefore, he argues, we won’t see major leaps in productivity until both the US and major global powers have all reached at least a 50% penetration rate for computer use. The US only hit that mark a decade ago, and many other countries are far behind that level of growth.

The paradox and the recession

The productivity paradox has another effect on the recession economy. According to Neil Irwin,[4]

“Sky-high productivity has meant that business output has barely declined, making it less necessary to hire back laid-off workers…businesses are producing only 3 percent fewer goods and services than they were at the end of 2007, yet Americans are working nearly 10 percent fewer hours because of a mix of layoffs and cutbacks in the workweek.”

This means that more and more companies are trying to do less with more, and that means squeezing two or three people’s worth of work from a single employee in some cases.

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According to Irwin, “workers, frightened for their job security, squeezed more productivity out of every hour [in 2010].”

Looking forward

A recent article on Slate puts it all into perspective with one succinct observation:

“Perhaps the Internet is just not as revolutionary as we think it is. Sure, people might derive endless pleasure from it—its tendency to improve people’s quality of life is undeniable. And sure, it might have revolutionized how we find, buy, and sell goods and services. But that still does not necessarily mean it is as transformative of an economy as, say, railroads were.”

Still, Brynjolfsson argues that mismeasurement of productivity can really skew the results of people studying the paradox, perhaps more than any other factor.

“Because you and I stopped buying CDs, the music industry has shrunk, according to revenues and GDP. But we’re not listening to less music. There’s more music consumed than before.

On paper, the way GDP is calculated, the music industry is disappearing, but in reality it’s not disappearing. It is disappearing in revenue. It is not disappearing in terms of what you should care about, which is music.”

Perhaps the paradox isn’t a death sentence for our productivity after all. Only time (and perhaps improved measuring techniques) will tell.

Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

Reference

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