11 September 2014

Different economies of academic success

From the K-12 system to their undergraduate degree, students are taught that they are operating in a credential economy. What is valued are whether or not you get a high school diploma, a certain GPA, a bachelor’s degree.

After so long operating in a credential based system, it should be no surprise that they have trouble comprehending the idea that at higher levels, in post-graduate work, academics are operating in a reputation economy. It’s no big deal to have a doctoral degree; lots of people have them.

The skills needed to survive in these two economies are rather different. In a credential economy, you are essentially on your own. You just need to complete tasks to complete the requirements to earn the credential.

A reputation economy, in contrast, is inherently social. Your worth is determined by how you are perceived by the relevant professional community.

Consequently, when they transition to grad school, students underestimate the necessity of establishing personal connections, and relating with the community they want to join . They are overly concerned about “programs” and not concerned enough about finding mentors and cultivating professional relationships in in their field.

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