Many students get a college education to better their chances of getting a good job.
But because most college educations are expensive, it’s important for students and their parents to see a good return on their investment.
This is the time of year when colleges hos summer orientation programs. During these programs, parents and students hear promise after promise of how students are going to be successful in college and why their choice of that particular university is a good one.
At orientation, students are likely to receive information about housing and food plans, Greek life, career services, athletics, student organizations, student recreation, sport clubs, even setting up a local bank account. Students might even select classes or be given the cost of books and supplies. Often, students receive their official college email and school identification.
The entire process can be stressful and overwhelming, but don’t let it stifle you. Choosing a college is one of the most important decisions an 18-year-old can make. In the midst of all of this information, it’s important to focus on the goal of obtaining an education for a future that contains purpose, promise and many employment opportunities.
If you and your children are struggling with choosing a college, here are some things to keep in mind:
▪ Select a school that offers many options for an academic major.
▪ Go to a school that creates a culture that allows the student to meet and make new friends. Going to college affords unique opportunities to establish lifelong relationships.
But, also, there are few environments outside of college that offer opportunities to be enriched culturally, intelligently and socially like a college campus. So students should want to select a school that is rich in diversity of thought and ethnicity.
▪ Attend a school that understands the importance of part-time employment and internships. More and more job recruiters are looking for graduates who are smart and have had internships.
▪ Strongly consider a school that understands and practices excellence in delivering career services and resources to students and alumni. Is the level of enthusiasm in the admissions office reflected in the career center at the school? You’ll want that office to embrace the word “placement” and to work with you in securing a major, discerning what career you choose, seek a competitive wage and, most importantly, graduate with a job.
▪ Students should select an environment that will give them support and direction, but not be enabling to the point that faculty and staff fix all their problems. Remember: Failing is part of the learning process.
In June, Supreme Court Justice John Roberts, during his commencement address at Cardigan Mountain School in Canaan, N.H., gave this advice: “And if you did fail, you got up and tried again. And if you failed again, you got up and tried again. And if you failed again, it might be time to think about doing something else. But it was not just success, but not being afraid to fail that brought you to this point.”
Going to college is an opportunity to develop leadership and problem-solving skills. Employers will seek people with these skills.
▪ Research the college your student is considering attending. How successful are alumni from the school? Where are graduates working? Does the career center continue to assist alumni? How many recruiters attend career fairs and conduct interviews on campus? You owe it to yourself as a student and future college graduate to ask questions.
▪ Ensure that the school offers several of your top options or academic majors. Connie C. Frey’s daughter graduated with a business degree in sport management in four years and attended a school 12 hours from home. Frey suggested: “Students should consider a major and a backup or two, as it is common to change majors. Ensure that the university at the top of your list offers each one; changing schools and transferring credits can be a challenging situation for some students, so having alignment going in will help.”
With return on your investment in mind, remember that if the student takes longer than four years to graduate with a bachelor’s degree, there’s likely to be a loss in salary, not just additional college expenses.