Experiential Learning Has Become a Vital Part of a Modern Education

In this complex and competitive world, companies are looking to hire employees with critical thinking and problem solving skills, and a knowledge of the broader world, not just a degree or experience in a particular field or a certain GPA. They want to know that the person they hire will be able solve problems and make decisions on their own by relying on their experience and observations, and thinking critically about issues and situations. They want employees who can combine their book learning with their life experiences.

At one time, formal education focused more on learning from books, memorizing and reciting. There was not an emphasis on critical thinking, problem solving, or learning through experience. As the world has become more complex, more emphasis has been placed on learning through individual observation and experiences. Instead of just reading about history, for example, students might go to a living history museum where re-enactors act out historical events or the daily life of people from the past. Instead of just discussing the politics and cultures of other countries, they might go live in those countries for a time and learn about the people and how they live and think.

So if you are a college or high school student, having a 4.0 and high test scores will not automatically land you the admission into the college of your choice, or the job of your dreams. You need to be able to show that you have life experiences that will help you succeed. Future employers or college admission boards want to see that you have leadership skills, or have been in a position where you have had to make decisions and relate to others. For example, if you have been a camp counselor, a dorm residence assistant, or a leader in a student organization, they know you have had to relate to many people, resolve conflicts and solve problems. If you have travelled or lived in another country, you have knowledge of the broader world and how it works.

These experiential learning opportunities are what set you apart from the crowd and give you the edge over your peers, so make sure you are making time for them as a critical component of your education.