College and career readiness doesn’t begin with asking “where should I go to college?” or “which career path should I choose?” To get ahead in life, you need to be ahead of the curve, and the earlier, the better.
I’ve always been naturally curious. My parents grew tired of me constantly asking “why?” after they explained just about anything. Thankfully for them, that stopped when I was around the age of six. Thankfully for me, I’ve carried that knack for discovery with me as I’ve matured.
In high school, I was fortunate to have taken enough classes before college to realize what I liked to learn about. The unfortunate part was that I didn’t think about life on the other side of college (mostly the expenses), and like many students, I’m paying for it now.
Many students delay decisions about college, their careers, and their finances to be made at some vague point in the future. Unfortunately, the short-term comforts don’t alleviate the long-term pain points of this habit.
While I certainly don’t think every child should be forced to know what they want to be by the time they reach high school, I do think they should have an idea or two in mind at least.
I almost had my head on straight, but I can’t go back in time to fix that. However, I can help others get in the right mindset for long-term decision making. Below are some tips to help you find a college that will set you on the right career path.
Learn what you like to learn about
In every job, there are certain things that you do on a daily basis in order to be successful in that role.
Aside from the communication skills that you’ll need in almost any job, you may find yourself analyzing numbers, investigating problems and proposing solutions, finding ways to connect with people, or conducting research. So, ask yourself:
- What subjects do I like to learn about most, and why?
- Is there a particular activity involved in learning that topic that I enjoy most?
Until you’re able to answer those questions, you’ll have a hard time finding a job which fits your skill set that you enjoy .
Find schools that share your interests
Identify schools that have excellent programs that will help you explore and nurture your interests. Check the internet to see what people say about those programs; Ask an alumnus about the programs, and if they were part of it, ask if/how it helped them advance their education and career.
The difference between two colleges can be immense, especially when focusing on a particular program. People may disagree, but the quality of education can vary greatly between colleges. Also, a school’s reputation does matter.
Find your crowd
Next, think about ideal classroom sizes and what size school might fit you best. If you’re unsure, visit schools of various sizes and get a sense for different campus cultures. Usually a prospective student can sense whether a school will be the right fit when walking around campus.
Also, on-campus visits can give you a better sense for how dedicated the school is to your program of interest. If the classes are in the most run-down building on campus, that’s clearly a red flag. If they’re building new classrooms and lecture halls, they’re investing more in the program.
Most importantly, if you visit on a warm day during the school year, you can see what students do for fun (if no one looks like they’re having fun, run for the hills!).
Initiate your career search early
If you’re thinking about living in the college’s area after you graduate, remember to ask the school’s students and career counselors what industries are growing there. They should have a good sense for the local economy and the presence of companies in your desired field.
You’ll really be ahead of the game if you work with the career center to find out what the alumni network is like and what resources will be available to you when looking for internships or jobs (in case you didn’t know, internships are really important).
If after reading this you realized that this is all stuff you already planned on doing, congratulations – you’re far more prepared than I was when I was your age. If you’re not one of those people, take some time to reflect and really ask yourself what you’re looking for in a college experience. You only get to do college once, and you don’t want to look back with regrets!
Work now and enjoy it later.
All opinions expressed on this blog are solely those of Home at 30 and are in no way affiliated with any other organization or institution. The purpose of this blog is to give general education and information about investing, wealth, careers, and college; It is not intended to be professional advice.
After earning an undergraduate degree in Economics and a Master of Arts in Management at Wake Forest University, Josh has paid off over $90k in student loan debt in 3.5 years. By founding Home at 30, Josh wants to help you make the most of college, build a successful career, and achieve financial independence.