“How To Link College Studies to Actual JOBS – Avoiding Unemployment After Graduation”
One of the biggest challenges facing many college and university students today is not necessarily the substantial work of higher education itself – but the fear of what comes after graduation! This is especially worrisome in a current economic climate which has large numbers of college students facing unemployment (or, equally as concerning, UNDER-employment) after the completion of their university studies. After all, one of the main points of higher education is to prepare a young person for a brighter professional future. Nobody – neither parent nor college student – really wants to finish a hard-earned degree and be forced back into living with parents or working at a dead-end job.
With that in mind, this month’s newsletter is focused on practical suggestions for your student that will affect both his or her future college career, as well as parlaying that educational experience into gainful employment once the degree is completed. Entering college with this type of thought process in mind – even if a student does not know what to major in at the outset – can make all the difference for developing professional options after graduation.
It is important to remember that the undergraduate years of college or university last, ideally, four years – which is the same amount of time that a student spends in high school! Just as parents often have to marvel at how quickly the years of high school pass, there really is no slow-down once the years of higher education begin. In fact, in our experience, they can even seem to speed up a little! This is, of course, all the more reason to be prepared for the important steps that come afterward.
This month’s newsletter will offer some things to consider – and equally as importantly, some things to avoid – when it comes to making the most long-term use of a college education. We definitely see and understand the big picture when it comes to higher education, including the conceptual and social importance, as well as the practical elements that lead to a fulfilling and successful career afterward. College is a big step, and it is important to be prepared for it – as well as all of the steps that come thereafter.
Interests And Course Selection
In the past, we discussed majors and minors in some depth, but the topic is also extremely important in this regard. Yes, there are traditionally “marketable” majors that tend to have good hiring prospects after graduation – but that does not mean that all students should be pigeon-holed into an accounting program (as an example) just to make sure they get a job. For some students that would be a terrific option, if they have an appropriate skill set and interests in that field. For others, however, that major and career field would be sheer drudgery, and there are much better options. There are also, of course, majors that have significantly fewer (traditional) jobs on offer, so it is important to be aware of this.
This can be one area in which a double-major can serve a student well. People who are gifted (and passionate about) a field with some less-promising job prospects can often piggy-back that interest with another field. Combining unrelated fields (such as a foreign language and pre-professional studies, or music and sciences, or arts and business/marketing) can not only lead to more job options later, but also can increase the quality and breadth of undergraduate education. There is definitely a market for people who create interesting academic backgrounds and skill sets, and there is no reason not to pursue them!
Students who begin college without a major in mind, and that is a LOT of them, can still make wise decisions about their major selection by determining where their interests lie. That is the most important thing, because it is vital for students to know what they are truly passionate about, and how they would choose to spend their working years in the future. Once those things are known, then a foundation can be put into place for developing the beginnings of a career plan that will function during the years of undergraduate study.
Of course, the best thing is to have some of those decisions made during the high school years. Not everyone will do so, naturally, but college-bound students who leave high school with some of these types of answers will often find themselves in a better situation for career planning in the early stages of college or university.
Graduate and Professional Studies
Obtaining a graduate degree can be a two-edged sword. On the one hand, it can definitely lead to job prospects and a rewarding career if managed correctly. On the other hand, if pursued as a stop-gap measure to avoid unemployment, graduate school can also simply increase student loans and delay the inevitable. It is vitally important for graduate degrees to be pursued with a firm plan in mind!
There is also a semantic difference between graduate school and professional school, but it can go well beyond the definitions. Graduate school is traditionally a program leading to a Master of Arts (MA) or Master of Sciences (MS) degree, or a doctor of Philosophy (PhD) degree. The job market for these types of degrees varies wildly according to industry and academic fluctuations. Professional schools are usually specialized degree programs such law school (JD), business school (MBA), or medical school (MD or DO).
While it has long been traditionally accepted that professional schools offer the most post-graduate career options, which are expected to be more lucrative than graduate school, this is NOT always the case. The modern world provides a broad mix of exciting careers, and it is up to the student to determine which resonate most keenly with his or her interests and skills – and to determine whether the additional expense of graduate school or professional school will be worthwhile down the road.
Summer (and Mid-Year) Internships
One absolutely great way for students to determine what makes the most sense for their post-college careers is to seek out internships with college affiliated (or even non-affiliated) companies. These can be managed over a summer, or even in some cases during the school year. (Interested students should always ask whether or not they can receive credit for an internship, as well!)
Some internships are paid, and others are not, but in our opinion that element should never be used as the determining factor for the selection of an internship. The experience gleaned from a well-placed internship can be absolutely vital for determining whether or not a field truly appeals to your student. Far too often students make a decision that affects their future without first-hand information about what that chosen career looks like in reality. Having some actual experience can make all the difference in that regard.
Not only is the information from these experiences valuable, of course, but students who perform well during internships are often placed first in line for hiring programs after graduation at the companies who already know them well. All in all, it can definitely be worthwhile to look for internships that fit with a student’s interests and career goals… whether they come through the college or university, or whether the student finds the internship individually, the value can be striking.
Whatever You Do: Begin With The End In Mind
The earlier students begin considering their interests, their passions, their goals, and their options, the better off they will be. As college funding and admissions experts, we are pleased to offer a number of programs and tools to assist college-bound students in that regard. It is truly that important. Young men and women who arrive on college campuses with these vital bits of information – even if they are not entirely complete and/or ready to decide on a pathway for their education on Day One – will truly be miles ahead of their classmates in the long run.
The mindset taken toward the college or university experience will be one thing that will make a huge difference. Far too many students view college itself as the goal, and forget that there will be a whole lot of life thereafter! If the process of higher education is truly seen as an opportunity to develop interests and skills, and to create an enjoyable career post-graduation, then students will tend to excel both in school and in their post-college end. Whatever the ultimate decision about future careers might be, of course, parents have another sizable pile of responsibilities.