Book Review: College (Un)Bound by Jeffrey Selingo

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For quite some time now, I have been excessively plugged in to the world of higher education and edtech. I follow all the right news outlets, I read all the right op-eds; in other words, keeping up with what's current is no sweat. But before I began doing that, I never really got a comprehensive look at the whole picture. So this month, I picked up College (Un)Bound, by Jeffrey Selingo. And let me just say this:

If you have zero knowledge about the mounting student debt crisis, the fall of the American university, or the rise of online learning, but want to learn - this book is for you.

It is a perfect overview of all three of the topics plaguing the world of higher ed, deep diving in all the right places and giving broad overviews where further examination isn't needed. It's clear that Selingo made his roots in journalistic reporting, and is able to keep the reader's attention through chapters that I might otherwise have considered unnecessarily long.

One of my favorite takeaways from the book is a conclusion Selingo also came to:

A four-year residential college experience is not for everyone.
A one- or two-year program certificate is not for everyone.
Entering the workforce right away and self-educating is not for everyone.
Everyone and every career path has different requirements and preferences.
But it needs to be shouted from the freaking rooftops that all of these options are VALID.

In this fast-paced world where the careers in highest demand often didn't exist 10 years prior, it's not always the right answer to attend a four-year college whose technology and methods are years behind. But in professions like medicine, of course a 4 year degree is absolutely necessary, and that's just the beginning. Some students opt out of college entirely, jumping straight into the workforce with grand plans to save for college and go later. But sometimes later becomes never, and they regret the college experience they could have had. The conclusion Selingo comes to is that all options are valid, but that high school graduates and their parents need far more education on what their options are and what they should logically be considering with their individual needs and goals, rather than assuming that a four-year degree is the answer for every graduate.

Another fascinating conclusion Selingo came to was the idea of creating more structured gap-year programs to offer to high school graduates. Many of the top performing high school graduates today are so burnt out by their rigorous schedules that they start college on the back foot. On the other side of the spectrum, some high school graduates aren't mentally prepared and mature enough for the freedom of college, and wind up falling flat on their face without structure. Finally, structured gap-year programs have the potential to help students save for college, or help supplement their scholarships and financial aid in return for their community service or something similar.

Long story short, this book had a ton of ideas to explore that have made me extremely excited about the future of higher education. I hope you like it too.