Seth Godin gets a lot right and I think this is spot on. What schools and universities do mostly these days is teach students to be students. Schools and universities give the impression that all you have to do is be an expert navigator of the system. That was probably true from 1950 to 1999 (and the vestiges of the system are still there, especially in the non-profit, education and government sectors), but in the private sector, more is needed.

What students don’t understand is that they are increasingly being graded on the items that Godin mentions:

Can you show me a history of generous, talented, extraordinary side projects?

Have you ever been so passionate about your work that you’ve gone in through the side door?

Are you an expert at something that actually generates value?

Have you connected with leaders in the field in moments when you weren’t actually looking for a job?

Does your reputation speak for itself?

Where online can I see the trail of magic you regularly create?

Unfortunately, students are too busy navigating byzantine application procedures and primping to be picked to actually spend any time thinking about what is valuable and show-casing it.

Universities’ current value to students is credentialing and signaling. It is what they have used to justify mammoth tuition increases every year for thirty years. What universities don’t understand is that as employers start to notice that the credentials and signals have no there there, they will look for other credentials and signals… like demonstrable mastery of a trade.

Right now, many are graduating from university and then taking a coding courses, design course, etc. and treating it like grad school. Grad schools require you to have a undergraduate degree, these schools do not. How long before students and parents start looking to cut-out the unnecessary part of this process?

The big question is that if you did as Godin proposes in the list above, would you need the signaling and credentials at all? Four years is a long time to learn nothing and expend a ton of money.