Starting at community college and transferring can give students a real leg up when it comes time to start a career. Especially for students in a program like American Honors.

As a part of an assignment for the class component of my internship I read, “Are They Really Ready To Work? Employers’ Perspectives on the Basic Knowledge and Applied Skills of New Entrants to the 21st Century U.S. Workforce,” a 64 page report by the Perkins Collaborative. The report concludes that millennials are unprepared to work after graduating from college. “Less than a quarter of employers – only 23.9 percent – report that new entrants with four-year college degrees have “excellent” basic knowledge and applied skills,” the report concludes.

My conclusion? American Honors students are the exception.

I’ve saved you the heavy reading! Here are the top four reasons why AH students are uniquely set up to outpace traditional university grads.

1. Self-care and Wellness

From the article: “Over three-quarters of respondents report that making appropriate choices concerning health and wellness is the No. 1 emerging content area, reflecting the growing challenge of rising healthcare costs.”

How many students have I seen, pulling all nighters all the way through midterms, eating nothing but pizza in the cafeteria, stretching themselves out so thin with clubs and parties, there are at least a few mental breakdowns every semester.

A lot of students I know get stuck in this cycle, everyone is in the same boat, it seems normal and they never learn the skills to get out of it. For example, I have a 4-year friend who eats nothing but frozen chicken nuggets and hot dogs, buys all his food at the pricey convenience store because he doesn’t want to walk to a grocery store, and never gets to bed before 3am or wakes up before 12 pm. Employment is going to be a big life adjustment.

“Transfer students don’t dive in fresh from high school.”

Transfer students don’t dive in fresh from high school, completely unknown to adult responsibilities and the balance of taking care of oneself. By the time you hit the big leagues, you’ve been in the Honors program (likely while having a job), figured out life as an adult, and you have the tools to study, work and play in a balanced, healthy way that will maintain your productivity and happiness.

2. Work Ethic and Professionalism

From the article: “Just making good grades on a test doesn’t necessarily make a good employee. It’s the work ethic that makes the difference,” notes Cheryl Fortner, Human Resources Director at Pan Pacific Products, a small manufacturer in Oklahoma.

Almost all of the transfer students I’ve met have held jobs during their studies, usually because they have to. With tuition on the rise, the number one reason why students choose the transfer route is because of financial circumstances. While this may seem like a major bummer, it puts you ahead of other students in the long run.

“Students with ample experience have a leg up in a professional environment.”

Only 18% of college students pay their own college tuition - often because their parents can’t help. For the rest of the students, most don’t start working until their last few years, if at all. Considering “employer respondents were almost unanimous in their emphasis on Professionalism/Work Ethic, regardless of industry, size of firm, or region,” and most graduates fall short, this gives the student with ample experience in a professional environment a leg up.

3. Self Direction

From the article: “Lifelong learning is a critical connection people need to continue to pursue,” notes Stephen Wing, Director of Government Programs at CVS.

This is a highly ranked applied skill, but often traditional graduates are considered deficient.

“Fortunately, American Honors students excel in this area.”

Fortunately, American Honors students excel in this area. By taking your transfer experience to the next level, dreaming big, and being your own advocate in your transfer progress, you are learning the important skills of self direction. AH students know how to overcome even their own self-doubt to reach their dreams. AH students aren’t simply going with the flow, they’re reversing the tides of their own life and choosing their own direction.

4. Diversity

From the article: “To succeed in today’s workplace, young people need more than basic reading and math skills. They need substantial content knowledge and information technology skills; advanced thinking skills, flexibility to adapt to change; and interpersonal skills to succeed in multi-cultural, cross-functional teams.”- J. Willard Marriott, Jr., Chairman and CEO, Marriott International, Inc.

Ranked as the second most important applied skill to employers, diversity adequacy is on the rise, but employers have not seen graduates applying with excellent diversity skills.

It makes sense. University campuses are not known to be places with incredible diversity. Most students are about the same age, often white and middle class, and arriving straight out of high school.

“All kinds of people go to community college.”

Many of my excellent professors from Spokane Falls Community College told me they chose to teach at SFCC over a 4-year university because they love the diversity. All kinds of people go to community college, and the opportunities that AH students have had, working in diverse teams throughout their time in the program, taking broad elective courses to hear different perspectives, and meeting people they wouldn’t usually come into contact with, give them a strong foundation in diversity to bring to any position.

I know that when I’m stressing about jobs, thinking about my the myriad benefits of my American Honors experience helps me get to sleep. Happy studying everyone!

Authored by Jessica McQuarrie

Jessica studied as an American Honors student at Community Colleges of Spokane before transferring to American University. She writes about self discovery and the effect honors programs have on students.