Editor’s note: The CCD will be teaming up with the Educational Resource Center (ERC) to bring you a special series of Advice from the Other Side in the spring semester. Check back every week for new posts!
As we hurdle towards the end of the semester, it’s time to look towards your summer plans (exciting!). For most of the you, at least some part of the summer will involve spending time at home with your family. Because your family loves you and is invested in your future, you’re probably going to have to field some questions about what you’ve learned in the last year. And your family probably isn’t going to want specifics—they’re going to want to know the general value of what you’ve learned during your time at BU. These kinds of questions can be daunting, but it’s important that you learn how to answer them now when the stakes are low because both starting and advancing your career will involve expressing the value of what you know. Because I studied Philosophy, people were often bewildered by not only what I would do with that degree after college, but also what value studying the discipline could possibly have. Here are some skills that you can focus on when having these kinds of discussions with your family and friends:
Critical thinking skills are essentially invaluable; they will be necessary in whatever career you pursue and in excelling during the rest of your college career. If your family is curious about the value of that Art History course that you took this semester, try explaining that you had to learn volumes of historical information and nuanced artistic techniques, and then you had to apply that new knowledge and critically analyze a piece of art. Having to make all of those interdisciplinary connections is going to help you in any other writing intensive course that you take, but you could also make the argument that synthesizing all of that information and applying it will prove helpful in STEM courses as well. Your family wants you to succeed in college, and if you can demonstrate to them that you’re gaining skills that will help you do that, they will see the value in what you’re learning (whether they’re wild about the chosen discipline or not).
Raise your hand if you’ve had to either write a paper or work in a group during your classes this year. Now, I can’t see you, but I’d bet that many of you have both hands raised. Having to articulate your thoughts in writing can be challenging, and you often just think about the grade as opposed to realizing that you’re improving your communication skills every time you complete a writing assignment. As you continue through school and beyond, you’ll spend so much time expressing yourself through emails and proposals; the ability to communicate effectively through your writing will, just like critical thinking, grant you continued success in your studies and your career. You’re also building your communication skills when you work in a team on a group project. I know, I know, group projects are the bane of our existences, but think about what you’re forced to do when you work in a group. You have to adapt your communication style to meet the needs of your group and in some cases, depending on the group, you actually have to lead and communicate on behalf of your group. Your family may not understand why you’re studying organizational behavior, but you can easily explain how much better the group projects have helped you communicate and work as a team.
Critical thinking and communication skills aren’t just academic skills or job skills—they are life skills. Learning to think through problems, to analyze ideas, and to communicate your thoughts is helping you to become a more well-rounded, fully realized person, and there’s a lot of value in that!