Adam Braun | MissionU (Episode 626)

Adam Braun (@AdamBraun) is the founder of school-building Pencils of Promise and bestselling author of The Promise of a Pencil. He joins us to discuss his new project, MissionU, and how it aims to update higher education for the 21st century.

“Credential isn’t nearly as important as competency.” -Adam Braun

The Cheat Sheet:

  • How and why is the education system in the US failing students?
  • Why students are even less prepared for careers now than ever before.
  • How MissionU protects its students from the crushing debt typically incurred by most college graduates.
  • New methods and tracks of study that are more “futureproof” than others.
  • How to think like an executive even if — and especially — it’s your first year on the job.
  • And so much more…


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(Download Transcript Here)

MissionU, co-founded by Pencils of Promise mastermind Adam Braun, is a one-year program that gives students the skills and experience needed to launch a successful career.

In this episode of The Art of Charm, we talk to Adam about what MissionU offers over traditional college and how it prepares students for real jobs in the ever-changing landscape of the 21st century without smothering them in debt. Listen, learn, and enjoy!

More About This Show

When a student graduates from a four-year college, one might imagine the crushing debt usually incurred during that time would offer a tradeoff of — at the very least — preparing the graduate for their chosen career.

But what MissionU co-founder Adam Braun discovered by hiring people for his nonprofit Pencils of Promise and talking to startup-founding friends of his who regularly hire graduates fresh from college, the majority are woefully unprepared.

According to Adam, this is primarily due to two factors:

  1. Today’s jobs have become hyper-specialized. Skillsets in demand this month may not have even existed a year or two ago — college coursework couldn’t have possibly covered it when the new graduate was still in school.
  2. Just having a college degree isn’t enough anymore. When higher education was more of a rarity in the workforce, employers placed higher value in job candidates who proved themselves capable of enduring the rigors of a four-year curriculum. Now that college degrees are as common as high school diplomas, the simple act of having one doesn’t carry as much weight as it once did.

“We’re shifting to this new world in which credential isn’t nearly as important as competency,” says Adam. “College isn’t necessarily preparing people with the specific competencies that companies are seeking.”

While the prestige of having a college degree has diminished and the preparation for the real world it once afforded has fallen by the wayside, Adam is in no way saying higher education is obsolete. But he is saying it’s past due for a massive overhaul.

“MissionU is a one-year college alternative built for the 21st century,” says Adam. “Our goal is to prepare students for the jobs of today and tomorrow debt-free. The way it works is within that first year, we don’t think that students should leave institutions of higher education crushed with insurmountable, crippling debt. So we actually charge no tuition at all up front. When you get into MissionU, we commit to investing in you for a full year. And then at the end of that year, if and when you receive a well-paying job — in our case, right now we’ve deemed that as fifty thousand dollars or above — you contribute fifteen percent of your income back to MissionU for three years, and then you’re done.”

Contrast this easy arrangement with the twenty-one years it takes for typical college students in the United States to pay off their loans — exempt even from declaration of bankruptcy if the student never lands a well-paying job.

“Once you start earning, we receive a percentage of that back to us so we can extend that experience on to the next student,” says Adam. “Ultimately, it’s really just about aligning our success with students’ success and guaranteeing that if you don’t have a great outcome, then we don’t either. And so all of us are moving forward to ensure that you’re going to have the best life and career possible.”

Listen to this episode of The Art of Charm to learn more about what the admissions process for MissionU looks like, what qualifies MissionU to impart a quality education, why Adam’s approach to education from an entrepreneur’s perspective allows him to innovate in ways an educator entrenched in the system for decades might miss, how MissionU accomplishes in a year what takes most universities four — and why that year better prepares students for joining the real world’s workforce, what a MissionU curriculum looks like, how MissionU works with innovative companies for win/win partnerships, how to think like an executive, and lots more.


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AJ Harbinger - author of 1162 posts on The Art of Charm

AJ Harbinger is one of the world’s top relationship development experts. His company, The Art of Charm, is a leading training facility for top performers that want to overcome social anxiety, develop social capital and build relationships of the highest quality. Raised by a single father, AJ felt a strong desire to learn about relationships and the elements that make them successful. However, this interest went largely untapped for many years. Following the path set out for him by his family, AJ studied biology in college and went on to pursue a Ph.D. in Cancer Biology at the University of Michigan. It was at this time that he began to feel immense pressure from the cancer lab he worked in and began to explore other outlets for expression. It was at this point that The Art of Charm Podcast was born.

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