If you could design your college degree plan – would you? My answer is yes. Since 2010, the number of college students graduating with a customized degree plan, or DIY, continues to increase.College students are creating individual plans that are not Basket Weaving 101 degrees from the 1970’s. Instead, these students are combining their passions, career goals, and technology.
I can almost hear parents saying “no!” to this idea. However, I believe this trend has staying power. For one, some students are not waiting. They are designing their degree plans now based on what they think the future will bring with an entrepreneurial spirit.
It is projected that over 40% of college graduates will have to create their employment in the future rather than working in a cube for someone else.
I think customized degree plans have merit and make sense for students who function well in a DIY setting.
High school students and college freshman have a different world view from ours. The Internet changed everything. These students have grown up with fluid technology and software changes that are as frequent as the clothes they wear. This generation also knows that an industry or profession can be disrupted and made obsolete overnight. Here today gone tomorrow.
I’m a curious person, and I like to test ideas. So, I searched on LinkedIn for the job title “Psychology of User Design.” The position does not exist today, but it will. Almost everything we do is about user design. Generation Z’s (the kids in school today) world is dominated by their devices and user design.
So, let’s run with the idea of creating a degree plan for Psychology of User Design. The student would take a cross section of design classes, learn to program in multiple languages, and think critically about human behavior. After four years of gaining knowledge to support their degree, this student, could feasibly be the first to offer this expertise in the market place.
You may think the student will have a hard time selling their degree to employers or customers – maybe or maybe not. Who knows? But what if this student’s gut intuition about the future was correct? And when they graduated companies were seeking this knowledge.
So, why not let students design their degree plans. Students in junior high and high school will demand more control over their degree plans in the future. They understand the importance of graduating with skills and gained knowledge that is current and not obsolete.
Here’s my recommendation for putting together a solid customized degree plan.
Define Your Degree Plan and Career Goals
What do you really want to achieve now and in the next five years? These are not your parents or friends goals. Be honest with yourself. If not, the college approval committee will see and feel the disconnection. Second, make sure these goals are reasonable and you have a Plan A and Plan B.
Here are a few suggestions to get you started. Does your career goal include being an entrepreneur or working for a small company? Or do you plan to work at several different businesses to gain experience before becoming an entrepreneur? Be sure to include your college goals and what you seek to gain, such as improved critical thinking skills and learning different disciplines.
Important – you must submit your proposed degree plan no later than the beginning of your sophomore year in college. To obtain your diploma, you will have different requirements such as completing a large project, a dissertation, or both.
Do Your Homework
Network and talk with individuals or entrepreneurs who work in your area of interests. What developmental and critical thinking skills will you need to acquire in college? Second, conduct a search on LinkedIn and Google for job titles similar to your proposed degree plan.
Learn from what you find in your search and what is missing. Do you see a trend that is subtle which could impact your degree plan? Also, consider any technology or business models that could disrupt or change your industry. Listen to your gut. The more research you do, the more you will know if this decision and degree plan are right for you.
Professor Sponsorship Required
Professor sponsorship is required at most colleges. You will need one or more professors who will support your proposed degree plan. Before you approach a professor, make sure you have your homework completed and a solid proposal draft. Professors are less likely to help you if you appear to be pulling thoughts from your head.
Another good idea is to find a mentor who works in your field of study and who knows the ropes. You will need these people when your degree plan hits a snag. Creating a degree plan that is different from the college’s menu list is a risk. Having mentors who can give you honest feedback and support is a must.
Determine What Classes You Will Need for Your Degree Plan
Review the course catalog and think strategically about which classes or group of classes you will need to take. Write them down in groups on a sheet of paper or in your journal. Look at the classes. Do you see a pattern? Or do you see something you had not thought of before?
Let the class list sit for a few days and then review again. Does the list of classes still work? Yes, no, maybe? Why or why not? Determine what does not work and then look for classes to tweak your plan.
As with any degree plan, you may have to add or drop classes based on what you learn and discover.
Degree Plan Proposal
Keep your proposal short and to the point. Second, provide solid evidence on how your degree plan is feasible. Be sure to include a Plan B in case you need to pivot midway through your degree.
Think about your pitch in the same fashion as if you were pitching investors. Because, school administrators will ask similar questions and do their best to punch holes in your plan.
List the classes starting with freshman year, fall and spring semester, and so forth. Include internships and potential summer jobs and how the experience is related to your degree plan.
Lauren Kay developed a degree plan called Love and is now the founder of an online dating website that has attracted more than $350,000 in venture capital. You can read more about her in The Wall Street Journal Article “Students Set New Course in Niche Majors.” The article also discusses the downside to a DIY degree plan which is important to consider.
Creating a customized degree plan is not for all students, just like entrepreneurship is not for all people. For students who know what they want to achieve in their careers, DIY degree plans offer flexibility to achieve their goals.