Vault's Careers Blog

Career advice and job search strategies for the modern careerist

Archive for the ‘College culture’ Category

Vault’ s Careers Blog is Moving

leave a comment »


An announcement: after almost a year on WordPress, we’re discontinuing Vault’s Careers Blog on WordPress. But don’t worry: you’ll still be able to get your fill of career information and advice on Vault.com–where our blogs are going from strength to strength.

Our full blog lineup on Vault.com is as follows:

Vault’s Careers Blog
Vault’s Law Blog
Consult THIS: Consulting Careers, News and Views
In Good Company: Vault’s CSR blog
In the Black: Vault’s Finance Careers Blog
Admit One: Vault’s MBA, Law School and College Blog
Insider Career Advice from SixFigureStart
Innovate with Influence: Global High Tech

Thanks for reading us on WordPress.

We hope to see you over on Vault.com soon!

–The Vault Editorial Team

Advertisements

Law Careers: Do You Have to Be a Lawyer If You Go to Law School?

with 2 comments


Whenever I talk about law school, I feel like a broken record. I cycle among three stock sentiments: it’s difficult for recent law school graduates, especially those who attended third or fourth tier schools, to find jobs as practicing lawyers; it’s a darn shame; and maybe a law degree just isn’t worth it right now. I’ve developed so many different ways of saying “bummer, dude” that I worry I’ll explode by sheer force of being so bummed out. And I doubt I’m the only one to feel this way.

Graduating from law school means you have to be a lawyer--or does it?My new approach is the following. It’s sad (unfortunate, distressing, lamentable) that the state of affairs is what it is, but I reject the inside of the box! There are things to do with a law degree that don’t include being a lawyer. Not that it’s entirely advisable to decide to attend law school on the basis of such thinking (see Jessica S.’ response to the second question), but if you have already gotten your JD and don’t know what to do next, the range of options is not so narrow as you might think.

To that end, I interviewed two non-practicing JDs, both of whom work in legal publishing agencies, about the paths that led them to their current careers. In the interest of garnering candid answers, names have been changed.

Vault: So tell me about how you decided to attend law school in the first place.

Roger M.: Well, I was working as an editorial lackey at a large trade publishing house, and one of my jobs was to shuttle manuscripts between editorial and the legal department for basically libel vetting. There were a couple of lawyers employed by the publishing house whose job was to do nothing but read manuscripts, try to spot libelous passages, and make recommendations about how to work around them or cut them out. I thought that they had the greatest jobs in the world, and I didn’t feel like I wanted to stay at a publishing house, so I went to law school–where I immediately forgot why I went there in the first place.

Jessica S.: There were probably two factors that went into the decision. The most immediate was that when I neared the end of college, I knew I wasn’t ready to enter the working world. So I went through the list of grad school options: PhD, business school, law school. The MBA I ruled out right away. I debated a bit about the PhD. But in the end I decided on law school, in part because it revived a vague childhood dream of being a lawyer.

Vault: As a 1L, what trajectory did you envision for your career?

Jessica S.: This is where I made a mistake that I would recommend others not emulate. You shouldn’t choose law school just because you don’t know what else to do, and that was really how I ended up there. So, when I was a 1L and discovered how little I was inspired by the study of contracts and torts and civil procedure, I thought, “Well, I’m going to get a law degree, but I’m not going to become a lawyer. There are so many things you can do with a law degree!” And there are, but law school itself doesn’t really train you for anything else. I had studied some languages, so I developed this vague idea of doing something international.

Roger M.: I knew that the publishing lawyers had all come there from other jobs where they were established, experienced lawyers; it wasn’t their first job out of school. I was just really naive. I didn’t have any sense of what kind of jobs those were and I was either incurious or lazy enough not to ask them about it. Not that I didn’t know them–I talked to them and they even wrote me recommendations–but I didn’t realize that they were coming out of really top-flight, blue chip law firms before they landed at the publishing house. I didn’t really get that connection; I thought you could sort of do anything. So as a 1L, I thought I wanted to be a lawyer focusing on the classroom subject areas that I liked, which were criminal and con law. I thought that I might want to be a criminal lawyer–a public defender, something like that–as a 1L. I wasn’t someone who spent a lot of time at career services. I wasn’t plugged into the grapevine or conveyor belt or whatever it was that funneled people into firm jobs, with on-campus interviewing and maxing out your GPA and all that. Basically, I didn’t appreciate the make-or-break nature of the first year in terms of landing a law firm job. I’m sure people told me; I just wasn’t listening.

Vault: How and when did that change?

Roger M.: The summer after my 1L year, I ended up salmon fishing in Alaska. I had an old friend who lives up there and does that for a living. I didn’t know I was ever going to have another chance to go live there, and I also expected to make about $25 or $30 grand–and I didn’t have any money at all–which would have taken care of my housing and other expenses. As it turns out, though, that summer was the worst salmon season Alaska had ever seen since they started to keep records. I had to borrow money to get home. And now I was really broke, so I had to transfer to the night program of my law school because I worked during the day. And in effect, that gave me another bite at the apple because I did realize what I didn’t realize as a 1L, and I went out and I got all A’s. Then, when on-campus interviews came around again, I had a much more attractive resume–because it’s all just two piles based on grades; I mean, there’s no real analysis–with a plausible GPA to get hired by a good, high-paying firm. Also, this was right at the absolute peak of the internet bubble, so there were the Silicon Valley companies and all these new start-ups, all of whom were trying to compete for law school talent. So, all the sudden in the year 2000, you had the chance of making $125,000 for your first job. Obviously I had money on my mind, and I decided that I was getting one of those jobs and do it as long as I can stand it, and then I was going to get out and I’d be in the clear. So all these public defender notions just evaporated; all I could see was the number. That’s how I ended up in a law firm.

Jessica S.: In my second and third years, I started taking international law courses, focusing on public international law, and decided that was what I wanted to do. I got an internship to study abroad with a humanitarian agency for the summer of my second year, which was a really great experience. One thing I discovered, though, in talking to people in that field was that most of them either do this work on the side or they come to it after an initial career in private practice. When I asked for advice, it was suggested was that I work for a few years at a law firm, get some private practice experience behind me, and then see about getting a position in the public arena. It was good advice, which I didn’t follow because I just didn’t want to practice in a law firm.

Use your law school legal knowledge in your career without being a lawyer

Vault: What made you decide to take your current job?

Jessica S.: I knew I wanted to do something other than work in a firm, but I didn’t know what that something else was. I hadn’t gone through on-campus recruiting; I didn’t work on a journal; I didn’t do moot court; I didn’t do any of the things that are traditionally helpful in terms of getting a law firm job. So I graduated without a job and without an idea of what to do. It was a little bit of a scramble, to be honest, at first, because even though I’d gone to a good school and had decent grades, my unconventional situation was (understandably) off-putting to most employers. But then I found a job with a small litigation practice through a listing at my law school. I worked there for a few years, and I hated it. I disliked being paid to take a legal position that I didn’t necessarily agree with; I hated the hours and stress; and I wasn’t comfortable with the constant confrontations inherent in an adversarial process. I realized there was a reason I didn’t want to be a lawyer, and I quit.

I took some time off, traveled and, when I came back, landed a job in publishing. It was a little bit roundabout, really, since I first took a temp job at the company, but then it turned out they were expanding into a new area for which they needed an editor with a legal background, and they offered me that position. There was something satisfying in finding that I could still use my law degree without having to practice.

Roger M.: I practiced in the firm setting for about two years. I hated it. It was an ill fit for me: I hated billable hours; the clients’ problems bored me (I mean, that’s a problem, right?). And I didn’t like the climate of fear. The junior associates were afraid of the senior associates who were afraid of the partners. The partners were afraid of the powerful partners, and it was just crazy. I have a lot of respect for people who do well in such a setting–maybe it was just my particular circumstances–but I realized I had to get the hell out of there. Somebody sent me a Media Bistro ad for a law editor type of position at a legal publishing company, and by this time I was kicking myself for having left publishing in the first place, so it seemed like a way to justify having a JD and doing something I would find a little more agreeable.

Vault: How do you use what you learned in law school in your current position?

Roger M.: A lot of what I do in the course of my day-to-day job consists of translating legalease into something like laymen’s terms. I mean, we’re still an industry publication and the audience is pretty sophisticated, but they might not be specialty practitioners. So, I have to sift through the language to get what is useful or interesting to an informed but not necessarily specialist audience.

Jessica S.: I think you can certainly be a legal journalist without a law degree, but it’s really helpful to have one. It helps you understand and convey to readers what’s going on in the profession, with respect to both legal issues and the day-to-day practice of law. It also lends you a certain amount of credibility, especially if you’re dealing with law firms, the courts or corporate counsel. There are also practical skills law school develops that are valuable in fields like publishing–for example, learning how to make cogent, well-supported arguments, and to distill often very dense and diffuse information into something persuasive and easy to understand.

–Written by Madison Priest, Admit One</em

Should Applicants Always Go to the Best Law School They Get Into?

leave a comment »


It is a truth universally acknowledged that you should always go to the best, most elite law school you get into. Or is it?

Good grades lead to higher paying law jobsIn a recent study, law school professors Richard Sander and Jane Yakowitz discovered that the salary boost from earning stellar grades outweighs the boost from attending an elite law school. Moreover, if you graduate with a low-low GPA, turns out you’ll “feel the least secure about your jobs.” (Read more about the summary on the WSJ Law Blog, which links to the PDF.)

In the words of Above the Law’s Elie Mystal, “I’m sorry, did anybody’s worldview just get blown up?”

“Higher performance produces a much larger dividend than eliteness does,” says Sander and Yakowitz’s paper. And they suggest that you choose the school where you will perform the best, regardless of rank. They write:

As an illustrative hypothetical, imagine an average student (GPA 3.25‐3.5) at 47th ranked University of Florida. Using the fifth column from Table 11 (AJD regressions on salary), we can predict how her earnings would be affected under various counterfactuals. If she had attended 20th ranked George Washington University, her grades likely would have slipped to the 2.75‐3.0 range, and her salary would drop considerably (by 22%, all other factors held constant.) Even if she had managed to get a spot at 7th ranked UC Berkeley, where the tier premiums are highest, her grades likely would have fallen into the 2.5‐2.75 range, and her salary would be 7% lower. On the other hand, if she had attended 80th ranked Rutgers, she probably could have improved her grades to land in the 3.5‐3.75 range, and earned a 13% higher salary.

But what happens when you get below the top 100? Does their argument still hold true? I suspect not. Moreover, since law firms are dealing with smaller recruiting budgets, many have had to limit the number of campuses they visit and they have not been visiting second or third tier schools at which they recruited in the past. On-campus recruiting is one of the most common ways JDs get jobs, and without a recruiter from Firm A on campus, it gets much harder to secure a job at Firm A, regardless of your GPA.

Law student studying hardThat said, Sander and Yakowitz’s argument almost definitely holds true when it comes to location. If you want to practice law in Alabama, for example, the absolute best way to do so is to attend the University of Alabama School of Law. As our 2010 Law Firm Associate Survey showed, attending a lower-ranked school near where you want to practice is often a better choice than attending a more elite school across the country. And if you get a 4.0 GPA at that local school, you are a shoo-in for a high-paying law firm associate position–as long as you don’t screw up the interview. To find out which schools are the best for getting a job in major U.S. cities and regions, check out Vault’s Top 5 Law Schools by Employment: The Best Program for Where You Live.

–Posted by Carolyn Wise, Admit One:  Vault’s MBA, Law School and College Blog

Career Paths: Career Development Counselor

leave a comment »


Much is written today about the perils facing this year’s graduating class. They leave college to enter an uncertain job market seemingly rebounding from the recession, but dense with competition for what new jobs are trickling in. The students expected to succeed in this environment are the ones who took the initiative well before donning their cap and gown, and sought guidance from career counselors like Marc Goldman. For nearly two decades, Goldman has participated in a vital element of the college tradition, ferrying students from academia and into the real world.

Marc Goldman headshotMr. Goldman has steered Yeshiva University’s Career Development Center since 2007, as Executive Director at two New York City campus offices. But it was at NYU’s Wasserman Center that he honed his abilities and rose from a “neophyte counselor” (as he puts it) to the role of associate director, before accepting his current position at Yeshiva. No stranger himself to the uncertainties of charting a post-college career, Marc lends his experience and administrative prudence to best serve those just starting down their career path. In the following interview, he shares with Vault the myriad lessons he’s learned along the way, the impact of recent recessionary budgeting, and how today’s students could themselves become tomorrow’s career counseling professionals.

VAULT: You’ve made your livelihood in career counseling, dating back to one of your earliest positions at Suffolk County Community College. How did you come into a job guiding others to jobs?

Marc Goldman: During my undergraduate years at Cornell, I went through a number of career transitions myself, starting as a pre-med student and ending up with a psychology major, considering graduate school options. Additionally, many of my peers who I considered to be very bright and driven individuals were finding it quite challenging to secure next steps in their career paths. “Ding letter walls” were common monuments to the challenging job market in 1990 and the lack of preparation or savvy on the part of new job seekers entering the full-time workforce for the first time.

When I was in my graduate counseling program at the University of Maryland, I chose a practicum experience at the college’s career center because it gave me an opportunity to assist students dealing with transitional issues similar to those I observed and experienced at Cornell. What struck me most about my first practical experience in the field was the multiplicity of roles college career counselors get to play. Individual counseling, workshop development and presentation, event planning, employer outreach, and program management were just some of the hats worn by the staff I worked with at Maryland. The diversity within the student body and the various stakeholders involved with the career center, including employers, alumni, faculty, administrators and student leaders, also intrigued me. No day would ever be the same, and that keeps you on your toes.

V: Prior to taking the helm of Yeshiva University’s career center, you were a 14-year veteran of the NYU Wasserman Center for Career Development. How would you describe your time at NYU, and what led you to make the move to Yeshiva?

MG: My years at NYU were an incredible learning and growth experience for me. I went from a neophyte counselor to an experienced professional and administrator in my time there. What an exciting, vibrant, and diverse institution NYU is, and the career center reflects that nature. I had so many great mentors and collaborators at the NYU career center, and eventually, I became a mentor and supervisor myself. My main focal points in my work at NYU were liberal arts students and career center technology in addition to the previously mentioned counselor supervision. But the myriad programs and initiatives I had a chance to create and participate in are too many to include in this response. I spent about one third of my life at the career center there, so it certainly was a huge deal for me to leave.

The move to Yeshiva arose from two well respected mentors of mine, Trudy Steinfeld and Manny Contomanolis, serving as consultants at Yeshiva regarding its career center. Following Trudy and Manny’s recommendations, Yeshiva sought a new director to reorganize and revitalize the career center, and I pursued that opportunity. It seemed like the next logical step for me, one that could prove both challenging and rewarding in many ways. I always pictured myself as a director at a smaller institution than an NYU because of the more tight knit community feeling one experiences. Also, Yeshiva provided me the chance to take everything I learned throughout the years and bring my own vision to a fledgling department in all aspects of the operation.

V: As both an associate and executive director, how much interaction do you have with the students your department advises? In addition to your administrative responsibilities, will you take an active role to provide guidance for certain individuals?

MG: When I was at NYU, I never dramatically decreased the number of counseling appointments I had each week until I was an Associate Director, and even then, I still saw a healthy number of clients. I felt it was important since I was training and supervising counselors that I also practiced what I preached and had a handle on the students and issues the staff was dealing with on a daily basis. I have tried to carry this philosophy over to my role at Yeshiva, so I still see students in appointments from time to time, but the vast majority of my position consists of overall department management, staff supervision, strategic planning, committee involvement, and serving as a liaison to various administrators as well as both internal and external stakeholders.

V: Describe the typical office culture and social atmosphere of a career development center. Is there a sense of hierarchy among colleagues?

MG: Career center cultures vary greatly depending on the institution, director, staffing, students, budget, location, and numerous other factors. Regardless of which division the career center falls under, whether Academic Affairs, Student Affairs, Development and Alumni Relations, Enrollment Management, or a specific college unit, I find many career professionals identify themselves most with student services. First and foremost, career centers exist for the students. That is something I hold true and instill in my team. In that spirit, I think career centers are made up of staffers sharing a common purpose, producing a unique environment of professionalism and fun. The balance of professionalism and fun changes at different times of year and varies with different members of each team. Whether the career center exhibits a fast paced, corporate atmosphere or a slower, more casual setting, the staffs care deeply about their work each and every day.

Of course, in order to accomplish the office mission and maintain some sense of accountability and quality, staff hierarchies do exist, but colleagues I know from across the country share my belief that college career centers attempt to be as flat in structure as possible. And in this, I mean that everyone has a voice in the direction of the office and what it is trying to accomplish. This philosophy is demonstrated on a routine basis, in regular staff meetings, or at semester strategic planning retreats. It is truly a team effort. It’s funny, but when I started as an entry level counselor, I was always lifting boxes and moving them around at our career fairs, and now as Executive Director, I am still carrying boxes or water cooler bottles. Nothing changes!

V: On the topic of offices, you work out of two Manhattan locations: One office on 185th Street, and one way down in the Murray Hill area. How are your duties and schedules divided between these offices, and how rough is that commute?

MG: Yeshiva is rather unique in that it has a men’s campus and a women’s campus for the undergraduates. When I came on board, it was very important for me to spend equal amounts of time on each campus, favoring neither population and insuring quality service for both. Even though my team is spread across the two campuses, we are indeed one team. I believe I am the one responsible for making sure our message is consistently understood and portrayed by the staff on both campuses and communication is flowing smoothly among all team members for ideal collaboration and success. The commute is fine for me because I live geographically in between the campuses. One commute is by bus, and the other is by subway. Living in Manhattan, I don’t own a car.

V: Many schools are enduring sharp recessionary budget cuts, which have taken a particular toll on career development centers. How have you weathered these issues? What effect has it had on fielding and acquiring necessary resources for your students?

MG: Yeshiva has certainly faced budget challenges, and my office has not been untouched. For me, the human capital is the most important resource at our career center, and I would much rather lose technology or other resources than lose staff. We have had to cut back on certain aspects of marketing and events, and we have become savvy at doing more with less. This is common in career centers throughout the country during this recession. Creativity and collaboration become more important than ever in times such as this.

V: From your experience in different schools and departments, what have you observed as a common education track for career development professionals on the university level? What guidance would you give to a student who eventually wants your job?

MG: A Master’s degree in counseling, higher education, industrial/organizational psychology, human resources, or a related field is typical for counselors at college career centers. However, practical work experience combined with a less common graduate degree is also welcomed many times in the field, especially at schools that specialize in certain studies such as law, business, public policy, arts, etc.

Something that I recommend in hindsight is to become involved in a professional association early on in one’s career. I have been a member of the National Association of Colleges and Employers for a decade, but I only really have gotten involved with the organization in the last few years. The networking I’ve done through my participation on committees and at events has enriched my own professional development dramatically, so I can only imagine how much I would have gained had I dedicated myself sooner.

I also would highly recommend new professionals considering this field to get some work experience outside of academia at some point. Basically, I have worked in higher education for my entire career. I did dabble in the world of theatre, so I have some knowledge of that industry firsthand, but I think it is a big plus to have some additional experience along the way to understand the world of work more fully.

Read more about the latest news and insights for student career development at Vault’s Admit One blog. Further professional development and job recruitment information can be found at the SixFigureStart blog.

Take It from Me: A Guide to Guides for Grads

leave a comment »


This month, college graduates are returning home to begin a new phase in their lives: being inundated with unsolicited career advice. Everyone’s got an opinion, and if you’re a grad you’ll find there are a lot of “experts” using this season to publish a glut of guide books that your meddlesome family and friends will pass off to you. Whether you’ve plotted your future or not, it can be annoying; but not all are wrong—some actually know what they’re talking about.

For a sense of the insights and pablum saturating the market, I checked Barnes & Noble’s recommended books for graduates. From those, I picked four dealing specifically with finding work and starting a career, breaking down the types of advice each book presents, and from whom you can expect to receive them.

101 Tips for Graduates, Susan Morem
In this market, the most lucrative tips for graduates are collected in jars beside registers. But Morem aims to inspire by establishing the severity of her tone from the start, with an “ABCs” for grads (“A is for Adult,” “D is for Dream,” “X is for X-traordinary”). Novel suggestions are given for job seeking and resolving early career woes, but at times their substance is up for debate. They range from honest tips (“Under-Promise and Over-Deliver,” “Life After a Layoff”), to hand-holding minutiae (“Turn Off Your Cell Phone,” “Always Have A Business Card,”) to clichés (“Everything Takes Time,” “Put People First”).
Who you can expect this from: Moms, overbearing aunts, owners of “Hang in There, Baby” kitten posters
The book in a nutshell: “Z is for Zoom.”

Three Feet from Gold, Sharon L. Lechter and Greg S. Reid
Proving Depression-era gold miner analogies never go out of style, Three Feet takes inspiration from Napoleon Hill’s Think & Grow Rich, and its story of a prospector who gave up just three feet from the motherlode. It employs a fictional narrative (and dialogue which quotes real professionals) to illustrate Hill’s tenets of determination and positivity as keys to success, but ends up with strawman characters and a generic plot when simply presenting interviews and analysis would make a stronger case. While it includes a handy lesson guide and appearances from luminaries like Miss America 2007 and Chick-Fil-A founder Truett Cathy, you’re better off reading Hill’s book.
Who you can expect this from: Dads with “Business Book of the Month Club” memberships, fellow graduates, aspiring motivational speakers
The book in a nutshell: “Stickability.”

Strengths Finder 2.0, Tom Rath
This is one of the more useful guides around, with assertions coming straight from the vast statistical resources of the Gallup Organization. More than four decades of research inform its 34 categories and “Ideas for Action,” which offer actual viable directives. Beyond the page, readers can access Gallup’s online “Strengths” testing, which may sound like those “personality quizzes” cluttering your Facebook wall, but actually discerns your assets. While post-college days are typically spent “finding yourself,” you can spare yourself a backpacking trip through Finland by analyzing yourself online.
Who you can expect this from: Overachieving cousins, career counselors, smarty-pants types in general
The book in a nutshell: “Overcoming deficits is an essential part of the fabric of our culture.'”

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Future, Michael J. Fox
Less a guide than a pocket-sized sermon in the vein of Randy Pausch’s The Last Lecture, Fox’s book is an ersatz commencement speech, applying anecdotes as lessons from the “school of life.” Fox, a high school dropout, states his purpose “is not to offer advice,” instead presenting maxims (“Don’t spend a lot of time imagining the worst-case scenario”) as wisdom gained from a lack of formal education. It’s a breezy, enjoyable read overall; but from an advice standpoint, while some of it is applicable (like the “economics” of his financial struggles as a young actor), other points (the “physics” of filming Back to the Future‘s hoverboard scenes) aren’t quite.
Who you can expect this from: Back to the Future fans, Family Ties fans, that one loudmouthed uncle
The book in a nutshell: “I have remained a humble and grateful student of, if not the School of Hard Knocks, then at least the University of the Universal.”

Written by A.A. Somebody

May 24, 2010 at 10:01 am

The Kindle Failed with Students at Top U.S. Schools. Would the iPad Have Fared Better?

leave a comment »


Lying belly-down on a sagging futon covered with a laptop, course books, notes and print-outs has, for many college and grad students, long been the preferred method of completing a course paper or studying for an exam. The concept is simple: everything you could possibly need is right at your fingertips. Yet the many months-long process necessary to attain this spread is expensive, heavy and environmentally unfriendly.

ASU student studies on her KindleIn an effort to address these issues, Amazon partnered with several institutions of higher education to distribute Kindles to students–all the materials at a student’s technological fingertips from day one. The hope was that the students involved would print less and spend less money on their textbooks without sacrificing classroom experience. The project included five colleges and universities: Arizona State University, Case Western Reserve University, Princeton University, Reed College and the Darden School of Business at the University of Virginia. Unfortunately, it seems the experiments did not fare so well.

Students didn’t like using the Kindle to study at any level–undergraduate or MBA.

Michael Koenig, the Darden School’s director of MBA operations, attributed the failure of Darden’s pilot program to the fact that the Darden students “must be highly engaged in the classroom every day.” The Kindle is “not flexible enough. … You can’t move between pages, documents, charts and graphs simply or easily enough compared to the paper alternatives.” The Kindle doesn’t even allow users to collect documents in folders, such that documents for the same course are scattered willy-nilly around the interface.

Princeton students complained about the annotation tools, among other things. You can’t highlight or annotate PDF files at all on the Kindle–a significant issue given that most reserve materials at Princeton are put online in PDF form. It is also impossible to highlight in color, making important passages difficult to spot while flipping through or skimming.

Finally, Arizona State University got sued by both the National Federation of the Blind and the American Council of the Blind for participating in the Kindle project.

Just because you can’t study on an Kindle/iPad, it doesn’t mean it’s not a cool toy.

That said, most students seemed to appreciate the Kindle as a consumer-friendly e-reader. Ninety to ninety-five percent of participating Darden students said they would recommend the Kindle DX as a personal reading device to incoming students, and most Princeton students echoed this sentiment. Students using the Kindle were also happy to cut down their paper usage significantly, another goal of the project.

So, if the Kindle didn’t work in the classroom, what could have been better? Apple’s iPad comes to mind, since many Princeton students suggested that a touch-screen or stylus might make for a better user experience. Yet the iPad doesn’t have e-paper technology, meaning it can’t be read easily outdoors; it only has 10 hours of battery life, as compared to a full week for the Kindle; and it has zero annotation tools built in. There might soon be an application to address the third concern, but that doesn’t erase the first two. Summing it up nicely, some students urged, “don’t attempt to turn e-readers into mini-computers. I already have a laptop that I love.”

All this leads me to believe an iPad might not be the right choice. Parents may therefore want to think twice about gifting the device to their high school senior as a graduation present as Apple suggests. While I’m sure their son or daughter will love how portable and aesthetically pleasing the iPad is, the notion that he will use it only for his studies most likely won’t prove true in the long run.

Of course, I could sit here all day coming up with fantastical visions of yet-to-be-invented, higher-education-friendly e-readers with long, hyphenated names. One would open up like a book and display two screens side by side, each of which could either display the same document or different documents. Another would have a highlighter-pen stylus with which you could mark a text long-hand, in color, and even draw diagrams. In short, it doesn’t seem that current e-reader options are good enough for the classroom yet. There is potential, and much of what both Amazon and Apple have done with the Kindle and iPad respectively is really impressive. Yet, when it comes down to it, it seems that most students would choose their sagging futon over the latest technology any day.

–Posted by Madison Priest, Admit One