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There is a very interesting conflict between the academic advisers and the career advisers at our school. Academic advisers recommend that we take difficult challenges that push us to the limit, whilst the career advisers recommend taking “easy As” that could boost our GPA and allow more time for internship/job applications. Whilst both have a good rationale behind their recommendations, the conflicting incentives make the students lose focus. They are forced to pick between becoming smart and becoming employable.

And taking liberal arts classes, and then getting straight As don’t exactly make you as employable as you think. Wall Street recruiters snatching up confused students with attractive salaries distort how employable students really are.

This liberal arts failure leaves students with no practical skills at all, leaving them to defer to sources such as Goldman Sachs to turn them from graduates into professionals.

At the end of the day, what is important is arming students with practical abilities so that they can delve into their professional lives without too much on the job training. Whilst liberal education makes you a great “problem solver”, it doesn’t give you any industry knowledge or technical skills at all. Sure, you could argue that since the kids are smart, they could easily learn everything themselves, but temptations that exist on any campus easily prevent them from achieving any effective independent study of technical skills.

I think the solution at the end of the day is rather simple: create environments that incentivize development of technical skills. An economic modeling club, for instance, where groups of students run projects together to develop their computational analysis skills whilst reviewing the material they learned in class would be ideal for cementing technical skills.

And, I guess the way to develop these environments is through students themselves: student organizations and clubs are the perfect way to motivate each other to develop technical skills. Besides, learning something with some friends is much more fun than learning it by yourself.

I personally believe that universities should be encouraging students to start organizations where students work in groups to develop a specific technical skills, especially in liberal arts colleges. That way, college students won’t be panicking near graduation and look to Goldman Sachs to fulfill their technical training.

No technical skills? Don't worry.

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