When I was in college, I studied abroad, spending 12 months in South America. The experience completely changed my attitude about why I was in college, what college was for, who I was, and what I wanted to do with my life.
To paraphrase philosopher and educator John Dewey, you don’t prepare for the future by drawing a straight line between what you’re doing now and what you want, because you don’t know what’s coming in the future. The real preparation comes in learning to wring the most meaning and knowledge out of the present moment so that you’re ready for whatever comes after graduation.
Interestingly, study abroad is a “High-Impact Practice” (HIP), a term coined by the Association of American Colleges and Universities to describe the research-proven top 10 educational practices that are the most beneficial to college students of all backgrounds.
HIPs are the best resource for you to ensure that you’re getting the most out of your college education. They provide a platform for synthesizing what you’ve learned into a coherent narrative, often involving invaluable collaboration and hands-on education.
Research has shown that HIPs are linked with higher grade point averages, and even more importantly, higher student satisfaction with their education.
As you’re evaluating college options, look for opportunities like first-year seminars that encourage critical reflection, study abroad programs, internships, and capstone projects. Search the colleges’ course catalogs, talk HIPs with your admissions counselor, or set up a meeting with a professor or academic advisor to ask about High-Impact Practices.
One example of an effective High-Impact Practice is Goshen College’s Study-Service Term. According to the National Survey of Student Engagement, Goshen students were more likely than their national peers to interact with students of a race or ethnicity other than their own, more likely to complete an internship or field experience, more likely to participate in co-curricular activities, and more likely to acquire a broad general education.
Keep in mind that, just because a school has HIPs available, that doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re easily accessible to all students. You should also find out what percentage of students at the school have participated in at least one High-Impact Practice.
Remember—your goal for college is to get a great education, and that’s exactly what HIPs help ensure. To fully prepare for life after graduation, make sure that High-Impact Practices are a part of your college search process!