While you hear the question “Is college worth it?” way too often, the real question is “How do you make college worth it? The answer generally is a combination of career, social, and academic experiences plus goal setting and carefully selecting colleges.
Here are our 3 best tips to make college worth it:
Career focus above all else
Whether in high school or college, career exploration should be a high priority. In high school, arrange an appointment with a guidance counselor to discuss career interest inventory surveys, shadow days, and internships. Career interest inventory surveys are questionnaires asking details about students interests and talents that match them with potential career clusters. They are a great early step before shadow days. Shadow days or a couple of hours to a full day opportunities to ask questions of professionals. These can be done as early as junior high. Internships are the next step. In college, career advisors help with arranging opportunities. Continual career focus will help with everything from narrowing down major choices to getting post graduation jobs.
Don’t put off major-specific coursework.
It’s easy for students to start by getting their general education courses out of the way in the first two years of college. However, this strategy delays courses in their major and potential major changes until later college years. The result? If your student doesn’t like their major coursework, they may delay graduation by a full semester because they are in a semester deep into a major deep into a semester they don’t like. The alternative? Taking at least once course from prospective major(s) per semester. The academic advisor can recommend a course that generally determines whether a student stays in their major.
Learn and do networking.
Networking, depending on a student’s major, may be the first or second reason that determines whether a student is employed after graduation. What do they need to do to network? Join major-specific organizations on campus for marketing, IT, environmental studies, etc. After joining, make a point connect with each speaker. Ask good questions. Exchange contact information. Go back to career services to get information from alumni in the field interested in mentoring. While in career services, take a class in networking.
Participate in Extra Projects
I wouldn’t be writing this article for you if I hadn’t participated in a class project back in 2007. My professor had us working as a whole class on a story on Texas taser misuse by police officers. I volunteered to continue working on the story when the class ended. Then, I followed up with an internship at the newspaper my professor wrote for. We won a national award. Because I worked on the project long after the class ended, I was selected to represent the reporting team at a national conference where I met my mentor. She told me to write my first student loan book. My career path was forged.
Making college worth it is a constant process of career and major exploration and re-exploration. The process involves regularly seeing career and academic advisors, along with carefully selecting classes and networking and career opportunities. The result is not a job post graduation, but a career your student will love at the lowest cost due to not delaying graduation.