By Ashley Reich
When I was growing up, I remember I had lofty aspirations to go into a certain career field. I am certain you can remember wanting to become an astronaut or movie star, but was this truly a reality? In most cases, what we aspired to be at a young age is a far cry from what we end up pursuing as a career. College is the prime opportunity to determine which career path seems reasonable, but often, college-bound young adults have trouble deciding. As a parent, you cannot ultimately make the decision for your child, but you can provide guidance throughout the process. Here are a few useful steps geared at the student who is uncertain about the proper degree path.
Consider Your Skills
When determining the proper major, consider the learned skills and passions of your child. Think about where they have worked, clubs they were involved with, which subjects they excelled at in school, and where their genuine interests lie. More often than not, students are certain about their passions and can more easily distinguish a weekend hobby from an actual career path at this stage in life.
Look at the Data
One of the best things we can provide in decision-making is the data behind career choices. Thankfully, the data is abundant when it comes to earnings. Many colleges are required to provide outcomes data to their students in offered programs. This allows the student to look at the likelihood of financial success and long-term growth within a potential career field. Additionally, much of this data will show the student the average amount of student loan debt accumulated and the average amount of time to completion.
Shadow the Experts
Before entering college, shadowing experts in a desired field will provide real-life experience and assist your child in determining whether this is the type of career path they would like to consider. Once a student enters college, there is a myriad of opportunities, such as Federal Work Study programs or internships within various departments on campus, that would allow your child to get paid for their work and gain experience in the actual field of interest.
Declare or Wait?
It is not uncommon for students to enter college with their hearts set on a one-degree path and then switch years later to another major. In fact, a study by BestColleges found that 3 out of 5 students would go back and change their major if they had the ability. This makes early college preparation and planning even more important. If a student is uncertain, consider having them take introductory courses at a community college first. This will not only save the headache of starting down an uncertain path but will also save a lot of money. A student considering a major with prerequisites such as Pre-Med or Nursing should know they will have additional courses and, likely, an extra semester or two compared to other majors due to the complexity and testing these majors require.
Use Available Resources
Regardless of where your child finds themselves along this journey of narrowing down a major, there are great resources available along the way. Many colleges and universities recommend simply setting up a time with a Career Counselor or an Advisor to discuss options. This will be well worth the time spent, and these trained professionals can often provide targeted assessments and questionnaires to help your child narrow down options based on their skills and abilities.