This is a guest post from STRONGside, a fellow Yakezie and a personal finance blogger at Money For College Project.
College is a time to learn right?
I would like to humbly submit that the most important lessons learned in college are not the ones taught by a professor, but rather the ones you learn as you grow up and mature into an adult (at least that is the goal!)
Earning a college degree is as much a right of passage into adulthood as it is earning a credential that will secure a job. Your college years are a time to discover your passions, your strengths, and figure out what you will do with the rest of your life.
With that said, please follow along as I recount the dumbest mistake I ever made in college. My hope is that you can learn from my mistake, and never experience this yourself or from one of your children.
In August of 2003 I walked onto a college campus with a wide-eyed look of anticipation and a self-diagnosed case of ADD.
I was the first person to go to college on either side of my family. With my family’s blessing, I proclaimed that I wanted to go to law school. I made the decision to major in Political Science, in anticipation of applying to law school immediately after graduation.
My freshman year was a breeze. I thought it was less difficult than the AP classes I took in high school, and I moved onto my sophomore year with a very inflated opinion of myself.
Sophomore year punched me in the mouth.
I began to take more difficult classes, I began to realize that college was not a walk in the park, and I realized that there were indeed (many) people that were smarter than I was. Second semester sophomore year I took a business law class that changed my whole outlook on law school. I could not imagine myself taking another class like that, let along an entire degree based on law.
Here is where my mistake begins.
When I finally reached the conclusion that a career as a lawyer was not for me, I made the decision to simply minor in business rather than changing my major to something besides Political Science. I reached this decision because it was the path of least resistance. I had already taken too many credits in my Political Science degree to switch majors without
extending my college days beyond 4 years. I chose business because it accepted many of the classes I had already taken, and the list of classes seemed easy.
I never consulted an academic advisor, I never visited our career center, I never discussed it with my friends or family, and I never sought the advice of someone I respected. Had I done that, I likely would have discovered that a Political Science degree is virtually
worthless if you do not plan to go to law school, or into another Masters level program.
Fast forward two more years and I graduated on time, with a 3.07 GPA and zero job prospects.
What I Should Have Done and What You Should Do
When I first got to college I was so focused on earning my degree, I did not even consider what would happen after I graduated. I did not have the foresight, nor I did not consult with someone who had the foresight, to sit down and make a plan for my future.
I had a bad case of living in the moment, and it was a huge mistake.
Fortunately, there are many ways to plan ahead while you are in college.
Many colleges have excellent career centers. They go well beyond your standard “take this skill assessment and we will tell you what career you should choose”. After all, we cannot all be forest rangers or truck drivers (which is what my skill assessments told me…)
These career centers have career counselors who will take a personal interest in your future and help you choose a career that is both satisfying and desirable. They will also take the next step and help you figure out what you can do while in college to help you reach that goal.
They can refer you to an academic counselor who will help you choose the right major for the career that you want. They will help you get plugged into extra curricular programs and activities that will be exciting, and beneficial.
They can help you with mock interviews, resume critiques, job searches, and salary negotiations. They will help you to develop the career skills that you will never learn in a classroom.
The best part about all of these services? THEY ARE FREE!
The career center is funded by your college tuition. Most students never darken their doorstep, and miss out on one of the best free resources on a college campus.
Another excellent way to determine what career is best for you is to participate in multiple internships. I would highly recommend that you take internships in different career fields, so you can get a real-life taste of what those career fields are like, before you take the plunge and commit yourself to a full-time job.
Internships are generally found within your major’s department. The head of your department is typically the best resource for internship opportunities. Many colleges also hold career fairs where potential intern employers come on campus to recruit students for internships.
The beauty of this system is three fold: you get to experience what real life is like within your chosen career field, you get paid while earning valuable on the job training, and if you perform well you are often times a top candidate for any open positions that company may have after you graduate.
The Bottom Line
I urge you, and your current or future students, to not make the same mistakes that I did. Have a plan for your future career, and make the most of the career planning services available on your college campus.
I am fortunate enough to have found a career that I am passionate about, but it has taken multiple jobs I loathed, a lot of stress, and a Master’s degree in an entirely new program of study.
This mistake is easily avoidable, and it will give you and/or your student a jump start over the vast majority of their fellow college students!
My Thoughts: I haven’t done my college in US but, anywhere in the world the learning systems works the same way. There is help available on campus. If you take the course you are passionate about, you get well ahead of others. Many of us take up a course just by looking at money earning potential. Remember there are many high paying jobs without college degree
We need to keep in mind that passion makes us successful in career and there by, earn us more money.