Being asked to blog for the Huffington Post was a moment on par with receiving that highly anticipated envelop from college admissions delivering the news "you're in!" In that moment we instantly imagine ourselves confidently sharing our credentials at some dinner or an interview.
But, getting in isn't the end; it's the beginning. It's an accomplishment to get in, but that's just an invitation to be at the party. We've got to make the most of it while we're there.
The Huffington Post is a platform for their bloggers to pursue and demonstrate their knowledge, get valuable feedback and earn credibility as provocative thinkers and problem-solvers. College is also platform for students to grow and earn credentials. So, what can colleges and students learn from The Huffington Post?
Begin with intention supported by commitment. I did not apply to the Hufffington Post; I was discovered. Coincidental inter-session chatter at a recent innovation conference led to a thrilling conversation about re-ranking US colleges to spotlight institutions who prepare society for 21st century success. That led to an exchange with the HuffPo college editor, including a report I produced called 101 Wacky Ideas for Reinventing Collegehttp://http://www.ceosforcities.org/101_wacky_ideas. You could say this was the equivalent of a college interview and essay, but I didn't have the conversation nor produce the report for this audience as an application. I work everyday to make a difference in solving the crisis of college completion, and to help people unleash their fullest potential. My real work is my calling card that led to my admission.
Students, what could you do to discover your own intention and prove your passion before you ever go to college? What problem will you solve when you get there? What can you start solving now to make sure you are committed? You need to know how you'll use the platform of college when you get there.
Colleges, how could you discover and recruit students without an application process? We know you scout for sports talent, but shouldn't this apply to actual problem-solving?
Both colleges and students should understand - before doing business together - what the mutual goals of doing business are. (Yes, college, like the Huffington Post, is a business. Buyer be aware.)
Create the rules that work for producing the best work. Admission to the institution is granted, so now what? My editor explained the rules: There are no rules. There really are no expectations. She encouraged me to write as much or as little as I could handle, and post directly via my account. And, she gently offered her editorial and creative brainstorming services, and left the door open for me to let her know what I needed. It was all so delightfully simple. Yes, the Huffington Post is a platform for bloggers to advance themselves, rather than expect bloggers to follow a recipe for success.
What's the lesson? Don't expect college to give you a map. Create your own. (Colleges, learn from HuffPost and don't give students a map!) Students, go out and find your passion. Seek the questions that drive you. Do this by living and being in the world, connecting to information and people. Dream about the possibilities, and go try to answer your questions. Find your own answers. Go as fast or as slow as you need to go. Document your work, get feedback and iterate. Put it out there in public and make it real.
College is an amazing environment with vast libraries of research, experts and collaborators to help advance your ideas and your impact. Relish that. But, truth be told, today's technology enables anyone to find almost anything or connect to anyone on the Internet. Not that I endorse it, but for the money you might spend on college you could probably travel the world and meet experts working on the problems you care about in person rather than read about them in the library. Do yourself a favor and choose colleges that think outside the "institution." As Monika Hardy of Be You House says, "The city is the floor plan" -- not your isolated ivy-covered campus.
Establish credibility. The reality is that most of us go to college get credentials. College is a socially acceptable, employer-approved credentialing system.
We acknowledge that we don't earn credibility by being invited to blog for the Huffington Post. We earn credibility over time as we continue to advance our thinking, publish our work, and interact with our audience to solve the greatest challenges of our time. Recognition by this community of HuffPo Intelligensia is earned, not tested against some pre-existing standard. Credibility is trust. It's questionable today if employers can trust college credentials. The degree indicates that an accredited institution believes we will be capable when we actually get out and start doing things after college. Therefore college credentials are a pre-qualification rather than qualification. Credibility is proof we truly can.
Colleges, if you want employers to trust your graduates, enable them to establish credibility as powerful capable problem-solvers in the world while earning a degree. I've talked to numerous students who dropped out because they didn't think they were getting what they paid for, or graduated successfully, but felt embarrassed or scared because they didn't really know anything or have anything to show if they did.
Students, don't accept the credential of a degree from an institution as a ticket to your success. By the time you graduate, if you graduate, you'll still have to prove yourself. Prove yourself every day. Seek and gain visible, public recognition of your work, and employers will come looking for you. But realize most employers will expect that degree, too. Select a college that embraces the reality that real credibility and real work is a differentiator from those who've only focused on getting that 4.0 from their professors.
There are no grades in real life. Think, do, publish, get recognized, repeat.