Advice for Juniors, Advice for Parents

Consider a Career Before Considering a College

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The road to many careers begins with college.  And the road to college begins with thoughtful, careful discussions between a student, parent(s) and college counselor about which college experience will help them realize their career goals.  

One of the first questions we ask students when we meet with them is, “Why do you want to go to college?” We find it surprising that many students don’t know how to answer this question.  Sometimes they feel that college is just the next step after high school.  Other times, they say they want to attend college because it’s what their parents expect of them.  While both of these may be true, and not altogether bad reasons for attending college, it’s essential that parents and students have open discussions about what, exactly, they hope to get out of college.  

Below are a few talking points to help high school students and their parents discuss their mutual goals regarding careers and job opportunities after college.  

  1. What college major(s) are you interested in, and why?  Ask your son or daughter about their favorite high school courses and which subjects they enjoy.  Do they prefer their classes that are more discussion-based, the lab sciences, or hands-on courses?  If they identify some potential college majors, have them go online to college websites and read the course descriptions for courses in that major. Encourage them to also read about similar majors to the ones they identified (ie, if they are interested in Psychology, have them also read about Sociology, Education, etc.) Note: Campus Bound clients have access to an exclusive career interest test called YouScience. Learn more here.
  2. What aspects of a career would make you happiest?  Travel? Income? Flexibility? Location? Commute? Have an honest discussion with your son or daughter about what a full-time career is really like in some professions. Are their personality and goals a good match for their intended career?
  3. What kinds of obligations will you have after college?  Will your son or daughter need to find and pay for their own housing and lifestyle? Will they have college debt to pay off? High school students need to understand that it’s not all fun-and-games in the real world.  They may need to take a lower-level job in order to fulfill their financial obligations.  Once rent, bills and student loan payments come out of their paycheck, how much will really be left (based on the starting pay for their intended profession)?
  4. What kinds of experiential learning opportunities are available to you at your colleges of interest? As the aforementioned article states, experiential learning is more important than ever.  This includes: internships, job-shadowing, mentoring, networking and apprenticeships.  The career preparation support and opportunities that are offered at a particular college should play a significant role in the college search and decision process.  

Students who have these kinds of discussions with their parents while they are in high school are in a much better position entering college than those who don’t.  College is not just a waiting-period, nor is it a stepping stone.  It is a job. It is the first four years of your career.  What you make of it will determine your career options going forward (will you get a promotion or be laid-off upon graduation?)

And, just as it’s important for students to be realistic about their career goals and options, parents need to determine if their child is a “good investment.”  Many parents help pay for their child’s college, which can be very expensive.  Are you spending your money wisely by sending a child to college who isn’t ready? 

Not only will these conversation topics be telling of a student’s maturity and readiness for college, they may also bring up other important opportunities for parents to guide their kids in the right direction.  So, grab a pizza, get the other kids out of the house, and enjoy having a meaningful conversation with your high schooler.  Be sure to end the discussion with hugs and ice cream.  

For more information about how Campus Bound can help families navigate the college admission process, including researching majors and careers, contact Campus Bound today. 

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