College Tips: Things To Consider Before Starting
College was a very impactful and enjoyable part of my life. My experience is not everyone's but hopefully there is something in here for you.
Choosing a Major
1. Research careers that interest you
You don't want to wing it when it comes to college. This may seem so far away but think a little bit about the jobs that might interest you. Look at what level of education is needed and how competitive the field is. See if there is a common thread with the skills and majors needed. This may be a good starting point for narrowing majors and departments. Through out college you are going to want to check and evaluate if you are in a field that gets you where you want to go.
2. People change their mind
Not everything you plan out now is set in stone. I started college thinking I was going to be a family doctor. Now I am a Mechanical Engineer. Things change and you change or you get a better understanding for what it is you signed up for. Figuring out what you are going do to make a living and contribute to society is hard to gauge when you are 17 or 18 years old. I have had friends that have always been confident about what they were going to be and became it and others who figured it out as they went through college and even later.
While I went into college thinking I would be a doctor I did not know that 100% and understood that could change. Hence, I wanted to make sure that if things fell through I would still be able to have good opportunities that worked for me with my degree. Because I did this, I had the flexibility to change my major within my sphere of interest without having to make up a lot of ground in classes. Plus, it did not force me down a path if it some time for me to decide.
Overall, if you are interested in an advanced degree but unsure if that is ultimately what you want, try to choose a major you can live with post graduation.
Choosing a College
1. Do they have your major(s)?
Make sure you are applying to schools that offer degrees for the things you want to do. Also, think about whether they offer other majors you were considering but did not choose. As mentioned above, you might change your mind about your degree and you don't want to have to change schools to get the major you want.
2. Big school or small school?
For everyone it is going to be a little different. Do you a small tight nit school which will remind you of Hogwarts? Alternatively, do you want a big school with a lot of people, organizations, a big sports program, and a huge alumni base? Do they have extracurricular activities that you are interested in? Do you want to know most of your classmates and dorm mates? Are the options for majors, acceptable? Are you trying to get in and get out or do you want to build a network you will take with you.
Not all colleges and universities are created equal and not all carry the same price tag. Do not assume that the more your degree costs the more it is worth, because it simply is not true. That being said some universities may offer unique opportunities and experiences that you can not get somewhere else. For example, one school may be extremely strong in your major or may you want to live out of state. Depending on your passion, these can influence your decision. Also take into account factors like in state and out of state tuition and living costs overall. Going to school at your local university versus NYU or OSU will all carry a different price tag. This is not to say go for the cheapest option for your education but undeniably it needs to be reviewed and carefully considered. There is about a trillion dollars of college debt in the United States and paying it off can be a huge burden so don't underestimate it. In some cases, you can be paying for the decision you made at 18 all the way through your 30's.
There is no Cookie Cutter Path
1. A four year degree is not for everyone
Not every job requires a four year degree and college is not for everyone. I am not saying college is bad or that some people are not cut out for it but not every career requires a Bachelor's degree and it does not by default make you more successful, happy, or wealthy. There are various good paying, high demand jobs that only need apprenticeships or 2 year degrees: such as welders, machinists, electricians, pipe fitters, IT associates, and operators to name a few. Keep in mind that the average student debt is about $30,000 and it is a 4-5 year investment of your time. If you don't have career aspirations that align with a college degree or have no idea what you want to do; working, gaining experience, and saving money while you figure it out is a good use of your time.
2. Think about What You Might Want to Do for a Living
It may seem like a given, but I can not tell you how many times people have chosen majors without really thinking about this. I am not talking about knowing the specific job you want to choose but know what options are out there and whether some of them look interesting. If you like history but do not want be a teacher, historian, curator or potentially a journalist; odds are you should not choose History as your degree. Find a degree that offers careers you are interested in and get a minor in History or take some free online classes on the side if you still want to learn more about the Ottoman Empire or Abraham Lincoln.