These college-related tips — for all college-bound students (teens and adults) — have been gathered from numerous sources throughout Quintessential Careers and organized here for your convenience.
Going to college – even if it is part-time while you are working full-time – is highly worthwhile. There is such a wage gap between high-school grads and college grads that one study found that high-school grads rarely achieve even a middle-class income, partly because we are in a knowledge-based economy that places a high value on a four-year college degree.
If you’re worried about choosing a major that will lead to success, you might be surprised by the college-major choices of some of the folks who turned out to be CEOs of the 1,000 largest U.S. companies, reported USA Today. Only a third of the CEOs have MBA degrees. About 18 percent majored in engineering; 15 percent in liberal arts, and 7 percent in economics. Offbeat CEO majors include East Asian history, medieval history and philosophy, French literature, and industrial engineering.
The percentage of young adults with at least a bachelor’s degree hit its highest level ever in 2000 — 29 percent — according to the U.S. Census Bureau. The gender gap tips in favor of women in college-level educational attainment, with 61 percent of females vs. 55 percent of males having some college under their belts and 30 percent of women and 28 percent of men holding four-year degrees. You go, girls!
“One of the best ways to select a college is to ask yourself questions so that you can determine your priorities,” advised authors Gen and Kelly Tanabe observed in the Q&A inteview they did with Quintessential Careers. “While there are a lot of important questions you can ask, we feel these are the most essential:
- Will the college equip you with the knowledge and experience you need for the future?
- If you have some career direction, will the college provide you with the education you need to enter that field? As an example, students who plan to become journalists will want to attend a college with a strong journalism, communications or English program and that offer support to find internships in the field.
- Will the college help you to continue growing? Will the class and campus environment challenge you, introduce you to new experiences, and foster the development of your personal ideologies?
- Will the college fit your needs on a social and personal level? It’s important that you find the best match academically, but it’s also important that you fit in the social scene and enjoy yourself. You can only spend so much time in the library. College is a time for living.”
Tim Nourse, employment consultant for Epilepsy Toronto has this important advice for differently-abled students entering college: “I have worked for many years with persons with disabilities interested in obtaining a post-secondary education. I can’t stress enough the importance of linking up with the Special Needs/Office for Persons with Disabilities folks at the college or university, once a letter of admission has been granted. This is a good idea whether the student feels they will need support or accommodation or not.”
Here’s some insight on choosing a major and a career from the “Ask Michelle” column in the Orange County Register, with contributions by QuintZine’s editor, Katharine Hansen.
More high schoolers are taking Advanced Placement courses, and those who take such courses are more likely to complete a bachelor’s degree than students who don’t complete such work, according to a report recently released by U.S. Secretary of Education.
The report, Getting Ready Pays Off: A Report for National College Week, also indicates that individuals who hold a bachelor’s degree or greater can expect to earn, on average, $15,000 more per year than high school graduates do.
Commenting in the Q&A interview they did with Quintessential Careers on the extent to which students should incorporate career planning into their decision about what college or grad school to attend, authors Gen and Kelly Tanabe observed that, “reaching your career goals is like taking a train. It may be a direct route to your goal. You may be a pre-medicine major in college, attend medical school, and become a doctor. Or, as is the case for many students, it may be a less direct route with connections in between. You may gain experience in several careers before selecting the one that fits the best. And your final destination can be very different from what you expected it to be,” the Tanabes note.
“Ideally, your career goals should play a role in your college or graduate school choice. You will want to find the college or graduate school that offers the best preparation for your career. The better idea you have of your career goals, the more clearly you can determine how well a school fits them. It’s important to speak with those who are in the field now to get their advice and to speak with students and professors at the school to understand what the college or graduate school offers to help you attain your goals. Know the courses that are offered, the approach to learning, and the support that is provided for finding internships and jobs. If you are not sure what you want to do, try to select a school that offers strong programs in the subjects in which you excel. In any case, be ready for and even welcome changes to your plan along the way,” the authors say.
OK, so we know you’ll make more money if you graduate from college. But how close is the relationship between how much you earn and which college you attend? The National Center for Education Statistics recently examined this issue, and its report explores the association between factors such as selectivity and other institutional characteristics, and the earnings of recent college graduates five years after graduation.
Are you a high-school student stressing over what to major in when you get to college? It’s great to be thinking, contemplating, and exploring, but don’t stress too much over the decision just yet! Enjoy the rest of high school! Choosing a career is a journey, and certainly not something you have to decide right away. If you really want to get a leg up, check out the six-step process that may help you think more about your career and a college major in our article, Choosing a College Major: How to Chart Your Ideal Path.
Even some of the largest public institutions in the country that receive tens of thousands of applications are moving to give greater weight to students’ essays, extracurricular activities and achievements, and recommendation letters. For you this de-emphasis on grades and test scores means that if you don’t have a perfect academic record, your other achievements and the essay that you writewill help you to get accepted. Share with the colleges your talents and abilities that are not easily reflected on your academic transcript. Ultimately, this trend is giving you much more control over the admission process,” the authors note.
Most studies show that people with a college education make a much higher income than those with just a high school diploma. Our College Planning Resources for Teens has articles about choosing a college, strategies for visiting colleges, and choosing a college major — as well as links to the best college-related sites for teens.
If you feel you don’t have the grades to apply to a four-year university, consider a community college. Students who attend community colleges usually follow one of two routes: Either they go into a career that requires only an associate’s degree or certification — or they use their associate’s degree as a stepping stone to transfer to a four-year college or university to complete a bachelor’s degree. You can find a wealth of information about community colleges at the American Association of Community Colleges site, including the Top 10 Community College Associate Degrees & Certificates.
Poor grades in high school do not have to stop you from achieving your dreams. Going to community college and developing good study habits and getting good grades can be a springboard to take you to great heights — whatever those heights might be!
Don’t worry too much about about making the right choice of college major early on. Many recent studies show that a large number of people are working in areas totally unrelated to their college major and that people will change careers — not just jobs, but careers — at least five times over the course of their lives. For guidance, though, read Choosing a College Major: How to Chart Your Ideal Path. Also, see how the Internet can help you choose a major at the Choosing a Major portion of our tutorial on Job-Hunting on the Internet.
If you’re a high-schooler feeling pressure because all your friends seem to know what they want to do with their lives, don’t feel rushed to find your “one right thing,” especially since that one right thing will probably change about five to seven times over the course of your life, according to most recent studies.
There are lots of ways of discovering what you’re good at. Sit down at your computer or with a piece of paper and make a list of things you like to do and things you do not like to do, then make a list of things you ar good at. Then see if you can combine the things you like doing with the things you are good at, and then you can investigate careers that use those strengths and skills. You can also take some assessment tests. Many are available both on and off the Web. You can take a look at some of the better ones on the Web by visiting Quintessential Careers: Career Assessments.
Finally, while it may be a little early for you to start thinking about a major in college, you can use the same thought process for where you are now and read, Choosing a College Major: How to Chart Your Ideal Path.
Are you an athlete thinking about majoring in sport/exercise science or the allied health field? One of the biggest decisions college students make during the college careers is choosing a major. The sports and exercise science and allied health fields are among the fastest growing professions in the U.S., so majors in these fields have many options ahead. Steps to making a decision about this major include:
- Decide what you enjoy about being an athlete.
- Talk to your coach(es) about various career options for you.
- Contact some recent and not-so-recent alums who were athletes. You can probably get their names from your career placement center, your alumni office, or perhaps your coach, if he or she has been there a number of years.
From this combination self-analysis and networking, you’ll gain some direction to guide your research into various majors. Conduct this research by meeting with professors in the various departments housing those majors. For many more tips and advice on choosing a major, read Choosing a College Major: How to Chart Your Ideal Path.
A psychology degree is great because it offers you a broad choice of opportunities, though those with a bachelor’s degree in psychology might also want to think about continuing your education by earning a master’s degree in psychology or a related field to keep your skills up up to date, increase your credentials, and make you more marketable. Other careers you could pursue with a psychology degree include: school counselor, social worker, employment specialist, teacher, researcher, and many others. Check out the links at Quintessential Careers: Career Exploration for some great resources for discovering more ideas and resources about careers in psychology — as well as many other careers.
If you’re a young person just embarking on the process of choosing a career, don’t eliminate any possibilities just yet. The key to a successful work life is finding employment that you love to do — not just a job that pays well. Whatever fuels your passion will likely lead to a choice of jobs that offer a good salary while allowing you to work at something you enjoy. Do keep in mind, however, that your interests may change as you mature and continue your education.
Thinking of majoring in economics? Quite a few occupations are available to those with an economics degree, including economist, market analyst, claims adjuster, systems analyst, inventory control specialist, demographer, geographer, and many others.
For a great source of transferable skills, list of occupations, and other resources, visit the University of North Carolina at Wilmington’s What Can I do with a Major in …..
Another great source of information to search is the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Occupational Outlook Handbook. Search the Handbook.
Finally, see the Choosing a Major section of our tutorial on Jobhunting on the Internet.
Self-assessment and career exploration are constructive processes when you’re first starting to choose a college, a major, or a career, but don’t get too caught up in the process early on. So many students have changed their majors several times while at college — and most still find a way to graduate in the typical four years. The key is finding something you’ll like doing, using your strongest skills, and realizing that your career choice may certainly change or evolve over time.
Assessment tests can be helpful, but keep in mind that all these tests are simply instruments to give you a little more focus and direction. For example, we knew a student who took one of these tests, and the results said he should be a construction worker or firefighter, among other occupations. He got upset because he wondered why he was attending college if his “fate” was in of these two jobs. Of course, he was taking the results too literally. Thus, if you don’t like the results of one of these tests, simply ignore them and move on to the next one. You can find more detail and links to some of the best tests by going to Quintessential Careers: Career Assessments.
Find even more job-search advice and tips in Critical College Journey Tips: Advice for the College-Bound — #2.
Review all our Quick and Quintessential Career & Job Tips.
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