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Planning for College

Planning for College: Learning from the Experiences of Others

By Ros Geuss, PhD, Fulfilling Futures, LLC, our Expert Contributor in Career Development

"… it is regret for the things we did not do that is inconsolable.” -Sydney Harris

If you are a high school student, you are probably thinking about life after graduation, and the ‘to-do’ list is ready to go for this new academic year: college applications, standardized tests, personal statements, teacher references, financial aid forms…and the list goes on.

The admissions process continues to introduce new opportunities, innovations, and complexities. Thankfully, hundreds of resources are available to help you select ‘best fit’ colleges, manage application requirements, and prepare for your personal and career development journey.

Lessons learned from college student experiences offer food for thought when planning for your future. Researchers have investigated how prepared recent graduates felt for entering the workforce. For example, McGraw-Hill’s 2015 Workforce Readiness Survey (www.mheducation.com) indicates while many high school students feel adequately prepared for college, “their sense of preparedness for the next step—the workforce—dips dramatically.”

Graduates often cite that they wish they had:

  • More fully researched majors and occupations

  • Engaged in work experiences

  • Utilized campus career advising services

  • Took more career-oriented courses

  • Managed time better

  • Studied harder

  • Got to know their professors

  • Started networking and preparing for the world of work sooner

Implications:

Preparing for College

Learning from others’ regrets, you can seize opportunities to position yourself to maximize your college experience.

  • Take time to evaluate your passions, values, and special strengths.

  • Research college majors in context of occupations.

  • Get to know your teachers. Ask questions. Seek advice.

  • Improve time management skills, starting today.

  • Pursue opportunities to develop skills and career knowledge through jobs, internships, and conversations with professionals in your fields of interest

  • Talk to teachers about special projects you can pursue to gain breadth and depth of understanding about yourself and your interest areas. Universities value intellectual curiosity, initiative, and learning for learning’s sake!

Planning for College

When choosing institutions that will best prepare you for your career, seek answers to the following questions:

Does the college or university…

  • Provide curricula relevant to your long-term professional goals?

  • Provide extensive support for selecting a major and securing internships?

  • Allow you to blend disciplines to develop both field-specific and transferable skills?

  • Make research involvement available in all disciplines from first year onward?

  • Facilitate changing majors as you learn more about yourself?

  • Offer career development activities starting freshman year?

  • Facilitate hands-on learning opportunities in all degree programs?

  • Organize career fairs representing a wide range of employers?

  • Teach job search strategies and skills critical for successful employment?

Final Note

Your high school years provide a unique opportunity to learn more about yourself and the workforce. Whenever possible, explore ways to put your ideas, knowledge, and skills to practical use. Be mindful about your purposes for pursuing an undergraduate degree. Research options carefully, and you will discover many colleges that will provide exciting opportunities and prepare you for a fulfilling and successful future.

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