We often receive correspondence from Kemper Scholars Program alumni who have been graduated a few years. They write to update us on what has been happening with their lives and, often, what next steps they are taking. Reading and thinking about these correspondences has been quite rewarding.

I think these communications feel rewarding because we all like to know that our efforts for and investments in people have had a positive return. The Kemper Foundation has over 60 years of investing in the professional and personal development of college students. Further, these are young men and women whom the Foundation staff have grown to care about, and we feel good that they are doing well.

The first thing I notice is the reflectiveness they have continued to develop, a skill we emphasize in the Kemper Scholars Program. They show a clear sense of who they have become as persons and of what they need to be fulfilled and to make the kind of contribution they hope to make. Their choices for the future are not about what the next logical step in life is, but what the next meaningful step is.

Second, they are thoughtful and strategic planners. Their communications uniformly say something like “I have decided I want to do X, so the next step is Y and that is what I am preparing to do.” It is good to see that they have taken the skills they developed in strategic planning for organizations and have applied them to strategically planning their own futures.

Third, the correspondence all showed young men and women who are taking a broad view of life. They are working hard at their careers – in one case their own business – but are clear that they must and will find a balance between personal life and work life. They seem to be realizing that what makes work satisfying is not the fun factor but the meaningfulness factor. And they seem to have grasped that what they are doing now will very probably not be what they will be doing a decade from now. And the change will be OK.

Finally, they have developed a comfort with themselves. This quality may be a function of general maturity, of course; but I am not sure everyone a few years out of college has developed their capacity to blend rational and intuitive decision making. Maybe not in so many words, but their emails usually say something like “this is not what people might expect me to do as the next step on some imagined career ladder, but this is what I have concluded will work for me at the present time.”

Perhaps what all these communications say finally is that we may put a lot of unnecessary pressure on college students by our incessant questions about what they will do with their lives and careers. Given the chance to live their professional lives at last, they make good choices and find their lives quite meaningful.

Ryan LaHurd