by Ibrahim C. Firat, MBA, Firat Educational Solutions, LLC, Houston, Texas
Will it be Georgetown University? The University of Texas? Pepperdine University? How do you answer the question, “Which college will I go to?”
Most students, when asked this question will reply: “It depends.” Deciding where to attend college does indeed depend on a number of factors, including your high school GPA, SAT and ACT scores, extracurricular activities, etc.
However, while these factors are all valid in determining your choice of college, students often overlook another important factor: their intended career, or in other words, what comes after college.
In today's economy, a career plan should be an integral part of every student's college search. Yet, studies show that most high school students apply to colleges with little regard to the major they will be studying or their future career plans; in fact, most students put “undecided” in their applications. Students (and their parents) often fall prey to three myths about career planning and college choice that prevent them from fully considering this important issue as they weigh their college options.
Myth #1: High School students don’t have a clue about their future career plans
Some contend that talking about a high school student’s future career during the college selection process is unrealistic because most high school students simply don't know what they'll do for a career after college.
Fact #1: In reality, during my nine years as an independent educational consultant, I have found that approximately 55 percent of my advisees know or at least have an idea about what they would like to do after college. And, if a student is in the remaining 45 percent, most likely, they simply have not searched for an answer yet!
Myth #2: Once I get to college, I will find “myself” and choose the right career.
Some also argue that college is the place where most people find themselves and make more informed and better life-changing decisions, including choosing the right career, than they would while they are in high school. Folks in this camp maintain that exploring your options after you enroll in college is just part of the process of finding the right major and career.
Fact #2: An average college student switches majors at least twice, loses at least six for-credit courses, and wastes an average of $12,826 in tuition in the process. Depending on your college education budget, this may be something to talk about as a family before “rushing into” any college selection.
According to the U.S. Department of Education, putting career as one of the top factors of consideration in the college selection process could save you tens of thousands of dollars in wasted college tuition, tedious paperwork involved in switching majors, and a nasty headache!
Myth #3: If I change my major or career plans after I enroll, I can always transfer somewhere else.
The reasoning behind this myth goes like this: once I figure out what I want to do, I can easily transfer to another college that has that major or career preparation program.
Fact #3: More than half of career selection “late bloomers” end up staying at their original college, even though that particular college is not known for the major, or preparation for the career they've chosen.
This fact may actually be much more detrimental than the last one, because of its negative implications after college graduation and throughout a student's working life. Weak preparation for a particular career while in college can make it difficult to find the first job after graduation. And, while there's nothing intrinsically wrong with transferring, students who do transfer in order to start a new major can end up needing more time to complete college, thus adding to their college costs and delaying the start of their working lives.
Students who know their majors and career path before, or at the time of admission, tend to graduate faster, with better grades and learning experiences.
The ones who take most of their college years to decide (a.k.a the late bloomers) tend to switch majors and career paths, graduate later than expected, and, most importantly, graduate less prepared to enter the workforce because they haven't had as much time for internships and summer employment related to their intended career.
Additionally, these students often find that they're now stuck at a college that doesn't have a particularly strong program in their major or limited support services to help them prepare for their career. When a late bloomer presents the “dream” degree from the x school to a prospective employer, the employer raises eyebrows and rejects employment of the recent graduate: this degree is simply not what the x school is known for!
The bottom line: a successful college plan needs to include attention to what your plans will be after college, not just during college. Even if you are unable to commit fully to a particular career path right now, giving some thought to your interests, strengths and weaknesses, and researching potential "good fit" careers for you can make for a more successful college search.
About the Author: Ibrahim Firat is the President/CEO of Firate Educational Solutions, LLC in Houston, TX. He has been an educational consultant since 2001, and with his team of education experts, he offers extensive educational services that include academic tutoring, standardized test preparation, academic coaching, and college counseling. Mr. Firat is also a professor of Business Administration at the Houston Community College System.
© Copyright Ibrahim Firat. Used by the Higher Education Consultants Association with the permission of the author. May not be copied or distributed without the permission of the author.