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College Freshmen. . . Tomorrow’s Winners Associate with Today’s Achievers

By Thomas J. Stanley on May 7th, 2013 in Mentor's Corner

There are more than flowers blooming at this time of the year around Atlanta.  Graduation banners are popping up in nearly every subdivision in my community. 


CONGRATULATIONS TO THE CLASS OF 2013 they read, followed by a list of the graduates and their prospective colleges.  What advice would I give to these students, if asked?


Many freshmen are probably uncertain about their choice of major.  Ideally most students would prefer a major for which they have affection or an affinity.  But they should also give consideration to selecting a major that will result in job opportunities after graduation.


I would recommend that they study more than the traditional college curriculum.  They should also begin to research and develop their own list of “Who’s Who” on their colleges’ faculty.  The so-called elite universities are not the only schools that have profoessor who are eminent scholars and leaders in their disciploines.  Yet it is amazing to me how few students graduate without ever understanding or appreciating who the stars are among their faculty.


A case example may help illuminate my point.  Robert phoned me with worry in his voice.  He was 35, had quit his “cushy corporate job”, and had landed a position as a financial advisor with one of the premier annuity and insurance companies in America.  The company specialized in serving high net worth clients.  He persuaded his employer to allow him to open an office in the town where he had attended college, a state university with over 40,000 students and 2,500 faculty members.  He initially did well by recruiting clients from his list of relatives, former fraternity brothers, etc.  Then he his a brick wall.  At the same time, he was placed on straight commission.


There’s just no money in this town.  I guess I was wrong in thinking I could ever make a living here. 


I told him that if he really believed that he should leave immediately.  I added, however, that he should stop prospecting the “usual suspects” such as doctors and lawyers and focus on a different segment.


Your alma mater has over 2,500 full time professors, many of whom are of the balance sheet variety.  I want you to go directly to the university bookstore and ask for a list of the books that have been written by the university’s distinguished faculty.


I told him how to cull the “superproducers’, including academic entrepreneurs, from the list.


A few days later Robert called me and exclaimed:


You will not believe it!  The first professor I prospected during his office hours told me it was good timing since he had just received his royalty check [over $700,000] for the second 6 months of sales.  He is the author of the best selling [hard science] textbook in the world.


Robert was stunned by this experience.  Yes, he had landed a major league client but what was equally or more impressive was that his alma mater had 100s of scholars and writers among the faculty.  There were over 800 books on the list Robert got from the bookstore.  And to think that he had spent four years on a college campus and did not have a clue about its faculty’s accomplishments.


It is very easy for college freshmen to become disoriented and confused when they arrive on campus.  Yet there is a predictable harmony, a pattern of academic hierarchy to discern.  All else being equal it is better to select a major where the faculty in that discipline are highly productive and respected scholars.  Most state universities have a significant number of these types of professors.  Imagine the impact of a letter of recommendation from the foremost authority and reknown scholar in one’s major?

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