Preparing for a Lifetime of Change

on May 23 | in President's Essay | by

How do you best prepare for career and other life changes? Get a liberal arts education.

I’m delighted to share with you an opinion piece Kelsey DeForest ’13 wrote this spring, which was published in The Roanoke Times. Directed toward high school seniors and their parents, Kelsey’s essay delivers a convincing message about the importance of a liberal arts education. She beautifully captures what the Hollins experience means to her now and how it will benefit her after she graduates next year.  I know you will enjoy reading it as much as I did.

Nancy Oliver Gray

Kelsey DeForestAs high school seniors around the country are making their final decisions about which college to attend, now is an apt time to discuss the importance of a liberal arts education. As a junior at Hollins, I’ve learned firsthand how vital my liberal arts foundation is. In my time at Hollins, I have completed four internships with one more lined up for this summer. I have studied abroad. I have joined and led clubs and organizations. I have planned meetings, fund-raisers, and theatre productions. I will spend next year serving as president of our Student Government Association. My experience is not atypical; these are opportunities a liberal arts education puts at your fingertips.

The Annapolis Group, an organization of 130 of the best liberal arts colleges in the country (including Hollins), completed a study that found liberal arts college graduates tend to believe their education had more significant impact on their lives and careers than their peers who graduated from other public and private institutions. Graduates of Annapolis Group institutions also report they were better prepared for life after college, career changes, and their first jobs. High school seniors who may be worried in the short term about going to college can be reassured by the study’s findings that 77 percent of liberal arts college graduates rate their experience as “excellent” compared to 59 percent of graduates from other private institutions and 56 percent from the top fifty public institutions.

These results are no surprise to students at liberal arts colleges and universities, where we are stimulated by our academic and extracurricular activities from the very beginning of our college experience. I am learning how to research, write, discuss, and lead. I am learning to effect change, engage as a citizen, and achieve goals. I am learning to form and defend opinions, and change minds. I am discovering and pursuing my passions.

Before we even graduate, those of us attending liberal arts institutions are putting the abilities we are acquiring from our classrooms, committees, and clubs into action. These skills make us shine compared to students at other private and public schools, ensuring we have access to better internships where we are entrusted with more important projects. Those internships translate directly into better jobs upon graduation.

And speaking of post-graduation, let’s be honest: I don’t live in a world anymore where I am going to embark on just one career; in fact, I am probably going to have four or five careers. My undergraduate education is teaching me how to be flexible and adapt to whatever comes my way. I will be ready for whatever I need to do, whether that is graduate school, traveling throughout the world, joining a financial institution, or working in the arts or sciences.

To most high school seniors, graduating from college seems a long way off. But you will be going out into the world sooner than you can imagine, and that is why it is important to think now about making the most of your college experience. A liberal arts education is something you will truly enjoy while it is giving you the tools you will need to succeed. It’s not just preparing you for a career, but an immensely gratifying lifetime of careers.

Kelsey DeForest is majoring in political science and minoring in Spanish and economics. She is from Shaker Heights, Ohio.


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