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A Review of Peter Cappelli

Updated on June 7, 2018

Can Focusing Too Narrowly Impede on College Success?


With many of the prospective students enrolling into the college each year being young adults who are just graduating from college and many who are still living with their parents, it can be a rude awakening for them to invest the time and finances into obtaining a college degree, only to graduate and learn that the job market is saturated with candidates in their chosen career field. Peter Cappelli mentions in his essay titled, “Why Focusing Too Narrowly in College Could Backfire”, it is not always so easy to go back and change program majors in college. Beginning your future college path by performing a thorough research of potential schools and their graduation rates and the job markets and conditions for employment in chosen career fields will help the prospective student build a good foundation in which to prepare for a more successful college experience.


In reviewing Peter Cappelli’s essay titled “Why Focusing Too Narrowly in College Can Backfire” once can find many topics discussed that are found to be relatable. Cappelli’s essay shows strong writing skills and his points are agreeable on the whole. Many prospective students, and parents alike, struggle to find the best fit college and program to invest time and money into. Those struggles can be compounded when there is little assistance from the colleges that provide information on career paths that lead to high demand jobs or paths that are saturated with new graduates that are unable to find work due to too many students in that particular career field or choosing a career that most jobs require prior work experience to be considered for employment.

Summary of piece

Cappelli puts into perspective the idea that colleges can be misleading in their recruiting efforts to draw in more students to fill their programs, without providing the student and their parents the factual outlook on any career paths or majors that may have little expectancy of providing employment upon graduation. He implies that parents and students should do their part in researching colleges and programs that may provide more opportunities for employment for new grads, or looking into alternatives, such as internships, that will be the catalyst for getting the new student acclimated into their new career field and enable them to network themselves toward gaining that highly sought-after job. Cappelli also argues that the recent push toward more vocational type programs, rather than the more limited ones that do not offer interchangeable skills and education, may not always be the best alternative either, as it is almost impossible for anyone, including the colleges themselves, to predict which jobs may or may not be on the rise and in high demand once the student has graduated from their program.

Assessment of writing skills

Cappelli provides information in his essay that is both significant and beneficial. As many prospective students, and their parents, will be looking into schools or programs that they do not have a great deal of prior knowledge in. It is important for both the student and their parents who may be funding their college education to look at both sides of the coin on choosing the college and program that would provide the greatest return for their investment. When considering which path to take in the college courses, between a more vocational tract which will provide education and a basic set of skills to prepare the student to enter the workforce upon graduation or a more professional tract in which the student may have to participate in internship or apprentice programs in order to establish the required exposure to their career choice before being able to become gainfully employed, the student and parents would need to also take into consideration the status of the student after graduation, such as if they will still be living at home until they find work, or will they need to be responsible for themselves financially.

Cappelli’s essay maintains a clear and defined understanding of his purpose for the paper. He makes it clear that it is important for the parents and student to do a thorough research, not only of the schools they are looking in to attending, but also researching the career choice, including any specific company or agency that they are interested in, and learning about the dynamics involved with getting into that field and becoming employed in their program choice. Also, he argues that the colleges could provide more beneficial information to the students and their parents regarding the job outlook and any recommendations for the student to utilize in job placement after college graduation.

Assessment of author’s values

I agree with Cappelli on the concept of performing a thorough research of the schools that any student is interested in attending. As he states in his essay, “You can pick the perfect school in terms of courses and location and price and ambience. But none of it does a student any good if he or she doesn’t end up with a degree. After all, college improves job prospects only if a student graduates. That is why it is crucial to scrutinize the graduation rates at various schools.” (Behrens 2016. p 435). If a school has a particularly high or particularly low graduation rate, look into why that may be. Are the educators lax in their grading system, or maybe too limited in what they will and will not allow in terms of assignment structure? It is imperative to know, as a student, what you are getting into, and just as equally important for the parent who is funding their college education to know where their child may fall in the spectrum of graduating students.

I agree with Cappelli also that making wise decisions about the college path taken is vital. Cappelli contends, It all makes sense. Except for one thing: It probably won’t work. The trouble is that nobody can predict where the jobs will be—not the employers, not the schools, not the government officials who are making such loud calls for vocational training. The economy is simply too fickle to guess way ahead of time, and any number of other changes could roil things as well. Choosing the wrong path could make things worse, not better.” (Behrens 2016. p 435). And, certainly making the wrong choice in your college path can be a greater mistake than none at all. It is difficult, if not impossible, to know the exact outlook on any given job or career looking into the future, and any prospective student needs to understand that going into a particular program that does not have a great job market and trying to change programs, they could be facing a whole new set of challenges, as program changes at their particular school may not be as simple as filling out a change of program form and enrolling in new classes.


In conclusion, I believe that Peter Cappalli made a valid argument in his essay for going into college with an open mind and the adaptability to restructure your career plans if your initial career choice turns out not to be the best fit. It is important for the parents and students to conduct thorough research about the chosen school in relation to graduation rates and success of employment following graduation. It is also important to thoroughly research any choice career fields and learn about difficulty or ease of obtaining work as a new grad, or any particular volunteer opportunities that can be used for networking toward gaining employment. In addition, school resources centers should be providing information to help the students learn about the job outlook in any given career field and networking information, such as volunteer opportunities, internship placements, and apprentice opportunities.


Behrens, Laurence. Writing and Reading Across the Curriculum, 13th Edition. Pearson, 2016. [Bookshelf Online].


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