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Ximena Beltran (CMN ’09, MA ’11), founder of the PR firm C1 Revolution, recently penned an essay for The Huffington Post lauding the advantages of attending college in a big city. Read the reprinted essay below to learn how DePaul’s urban environment contributed to Beltran’s career success.
College is an important decision.
That idea is instilled in many Americans at an early age. We’re told that where we go and what we study will determine the life we will lead.
When I volunteer with the Future Founders Foundation, a Chicago nonprofit that empowers low-income youth through exploring and practicing entrepreneurship, the question of my college choice always comes up.
Instead of spending time telling them about the decision process, I share the one factor that I think has made all the difference in my career: if possible, avoid the rural campus and go to a city with the greatest number of people.
It’s what allowed me to intern with Clear Channel, the White Sox, Shedd Aquarium and the Nike Tournament of Champions while still in school and laid the groundwork for me to start my own business at 27.
Looking to get as far away from your parents and party for four years before entering the real world? Good luck finding a job post-college. The real world is now. Choosing to put it off for four years means you put yourself at a disadvantage. If you want to float through life instead of living with purpose, you’ll end up working for the people who took the time to explore meaningful career opportunities as early as possible. Don’t mistake that as a push to join the rat race at an earlier age. Work can be rewarding, and the drudgery of a 9 to 5 is avoidable if you find what you love to do sooner rather than later. A city allows this to happen organically because of the wide array of companies located within it. That’s something that’s not as accessible on a rural campus that is often a homogenization of college students. That means your opportunity for internships and part-time work is far greater, allowing you the chance to discover the career path that you find the most satisfying—long before graduation. And with the majority of young people moving to an urban environment post-college, you’re giving yourself a four-year head start to learn the ins and outs of a city and build a network.
In his book “Where Good Ideas Come From”, Steven Johnson discusses the concept of the adjacent possible, which states that individuals develop insights into unexplored areas more quickly in big cities due to the high exposure of different types of people in a smaller space. In other words, simply by living in a city, you are more likely to come up with good ideas at a faster pace because of the great diversity of thought. This is important. A metropolis exposes you to a wide range of people on a daily basis. Every day you encounter people who are different from you in age and socio-economic status. In a city, it’s likely you’ll even share your playground with college students from other schools. This naturally prepares you for life after college where you’re expected to be able to interact and engage people from various backgrounds—something that a rural campus has a hard time offering.
A city college provides a four-year head start for networking opportunities. The very nature of the city is proximity to opportunities that are hard to come by or don’t even exist on a rural campus. For example, you’re able to pursue coveted internships year-round, instead of during the uber-competitive summer season. That also means you’re able to add and build work experience year-round. Also, it’s likely that you and the people you attend school with will stay there post-college. As a result, you have immediate access to connections you’ve spent four years cultivating, including fellow students, alumni, professors, guest speakers and supervisors. As an immigrant with no network, this was a crucial step in creating career opportunities for me.
Where to go, where to rent and how to take public transportation—all things you learn at a more leisurely pace when you’re in college. And because you share your urban college campus with those who aren’t in school, you learn pretty quickly what appropriate attire is. There’s nothing wrong with yoga pants or a sweatshirt, but living among working professionals teaches you to take care of your appearance because you never know who you’ll run into on the street.
When your college campus is just a few blocks away from MillerCoors’ offices, it’s easy to have Chief Public Affairs and Communication Officer Pete Marino come by for a guest lecture. That’s just one example of the real-life learning and networking opportunities Ron Culp, instructor and professional director for DePaul University’s public relations and advertising program, provides his Chicago-based students. That’s the benefit of having professors who are current or recent working professionals (prior to joining DePaul, Culp was a partner and managing director of Ketchum’s Midwest offices and head of the agency’s North American corporate practice). Their teaching is based on recent scenarios from their workplace and not just theory from a book. Also, they have the network to connect their students to other high-caliber professionals in the city.
Ultimately, college is what you make of it. But in my opinion, there’s no faster way to get your synapses firing than to be in place where change happens by the second.
Ximena has also been featured in Forbes, in her guest post “Youth In The Office: How I Found Career-Changing Mentors” (2011). For more on C1 Revolution, visit the firm’s website.