May 1: When worlds collide in higher education

May 1 is one of the biggest days in college admissions. It is the traditional deadline by which students are asked to respond to offers of admission. College and university administrators know the composition of their incoming classes, and in many cases, know what still remains to be done in order to meet fall enrollment goals. This is the time when colleges and universities are making their closing arguments to students and families and earnestly reinforce their case to prevent incoming students from balking at the last minute.

May 1 also marks the beginning of commencement season on campuses. Students and families celebrate the major accomplishment of finishing a college degree, reflect positively on past experience, and contemplate future opportunities. One of the most prevalent future opportunities is employment: for some graduates, it is the start of a career and for others it may be a career change or further advancement. News is filled with stories about employment prospects and job placements of the new class of graduates.

This reminds me of Seinfeld character George Costanza’s worlds colliding problem.

On one hand, higher education institutions enroll new students with promises of life-changing experiences, including improved employment prospects. On the other hand, hundreds or thousands of new graduates attest to whether their expectations are met.

In George’s case, having worlds collide is bad. In the case of higher education, having worlds collide represents fulfilling an institution’s mission.

This is an important time of year for colleges and universities. When news media focuses on college cost, student loan debt, and job placements for college graduates, this is an important time to communicate to students, graduates, and their families about the value of a college degree and the particular advantages of our institutions. Be relentless!

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