College is your first foray into adulthood with significant decisions along the way. Choosing the right school that offers what you’d like to study is the first step along your career path.
“Doing your homework will help you prepare for life after graduation,” says Rosemary Haefner, chief human resources officer at CareerBuilder. “Despite rising costs, a college degree is well worth it in terms of lifetime earnings, but different institutions have different offerings and costs. Being aware of your choices is important, and the choice of major is especially critical now when the labor market is so competitive.”
Parents often want to send their child to the best school, but that’s not always the right school. “Think about what’s the right school that has the right environment, class size, and culture,” says Michael Baldwin, author of Just Add Water. “If someone has an idea about what they want to study, then the right school becomes the obvious choice because you can choose the school that has a fantastic program for this topic.”
While college is a place to explore different subjects and find out what you like and don’t like, you’ll also learn many in-demand skills, such as leadership, data analysis and public speaking which will help you start your career. And the decisions you make for what to study and which school to attend will go hand-in-hand.
As you maneuver through this process with your parents, experts provide tips to help you make the best investment for your career.
Personality tests can help match your interests with a career since they test for your aptitudes, which are key to figuring out the careers that you’ll be good at and enjoy. “When you’re doing something that engages your natural aptitudes, it’s a natural state of satisfaction,” says Baldwin.
Be Open Minded
Once you have an idea for which career you’d like to pursue, you can figure out what you need to study to get there.“You want to do a mix of your passion and what will get you a job,” says Scott Dobroski, community expert at Glassdoor.
Being flexible is important since you may change paths during college or after, as is casting a wide net to create a valued skillset, experts suggest. If someone wants to study English or journalism, for example, rather than write for a traditional newspaper, they can write for a consulting firm or tech company and earn a higher salary. Many jobs have overlapping skillsets too, like a computer scientist working in sales or an English major doing data analytics work.
Researching different industries and careers using sites like the Bureau of Labor Statistics, CareerBuilder’s Find Your Calling and Glassdoor can help you ascertain which fields might be a better fit. “Rather than rely on pop culture or anecdotal advice from friends and family, knowing the average salary for a position, market demand and what education’s required to be successful in a position can help you make more meaningful decisions for the future,” says Haefner.
Discuss the Finances
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Consider the careers you’d like to pursue and the potential income you’ll earn at those jobs. A college degree can be expensive, and the cost should play into your decision.
Experts suggest that parents talk with their child about the big picture to help them understand their goals and their expectations to work hard and make good on the financial investment of college. Also research the costs for schools on your list, including tuition, room and board, and books, and consider whether the potential income for a particular career that you pursue will justify the expense to earn that degree.
“Then the two can work together to learn what financial options might work best for your family when it comes to choosing a college path and whether a community college, public university or private college is the best option,” says Haefner.
Working Hard Matters Most
“There’s no set evidence anymore that indicates that where you go to college determines how you’ll perform in the job market or your greater earning potential,” says Dobroski.
While certain schools do show higher potential earnings for graduates, companies don’t always correlate job performance with your alma mater. Employers tend to look at your resume and relevant experience, as well as what you’ll bring to the table. Unless you’re able to deliver on a skillset once you’re in the door, leveraging a school’s network won’t boost your career.
Attending a school that’s best suited for you is better in the long run than attending the highest ranked, most expensive school, experts suggest.