For years, the educational focus has been on “self-esteem”.

However, given the challenges of the economy, perhaps “preparedness” should be the new mantra. Jermaine Taylor of CNBC reports on the findings of a new study:

As close to 2 million college students prepare to graduate, a study finds that many of them face what it calls a “unique paradox.” While the young people are qualified—even overqualified, in many cases—to enter the workplace, most of them feel ill-suited to tackle the harsh realities of an evolving job market.

The wide-ranging study was conducted by the consulting firm McKinsey & Co. in conjunction with online student hub Chegg. It involved more than 4,900 graduates, most of whom finished college between 2009 and 2012, and suggests that graduates are growing increasingly disillusioned with the employment outcomes of their education.

In what may be the most troubling finding, more than half (53 percent) of participants said that they would “do things differently if they had to do it all over again,” choosing a different major or a different school.

This “should be an alarming call to action for all of us,” said André Dua, a director at McKinsey and lead author of the study. “We need to have a national discussion about how to better prepare students.”

The study comes on the heels of the publication of the book “Is College Worth It?”, by former Secretary of Education William Bennett. In it, he questions the value of attending the vast majority of colleges. According to Bennett, only 150 of America’s 3,500 colleges are actually worth attending.

Indeed, the McKinsey study found that a disturbing one-third of graduates “did not feel college prepared them well for employment.”

Students ‘Flying Blind’

Half of graduates said when evaluating a school before applying, they didn’t consider graduation or employment rates, or the starting salaries of alumni—essentially “flying blind” through the admissions process, the study said.

Many policymakers and the Obama administration have begun calling on colleges to collect and publish such information. But many schools remain reluctant and argue that the value of an education shouldn’t be reduced to a simple analysis of results, pointing to cumulative earnings over time of those with a college degree….

“If someone’s borrowing money to pay for college, there’s a fair presumption that they will earn enough money to pay it back,” said Mark Kantrowitz, publisher of and an expert on financial aid. “It’s important that students and their families be able to make a more informed decision about the trade-off between college affordability and college quality.”