Category Archives: College

Why Every High School Student Needs a Reading List

A few weeks ago I shared why I believe reading is the key to getting into college. I briefly wrote about the importance of having a strong reading list. I’d like to go into that a bit more.

Summer is the perfect time for reading. You’ve probably got a little more free time than normal and can devote a little more time to reading. I understand that summers do fill up quick and go by fast, but try to take some time out to work on your reading list.

Maybe you are a “reader”, maybe not. For those of you who love reading this will be easy. For those of you who don’t love reading, this will be important. file000777035782

Readers

Readers read a lot. It’s what they do right? But, what readers don’t always do is remember. That’s why the reading list is so important for them. You need to create a document, spreadsheet, or a list that keeps track of all the books you’ve read and a very brief description of each of them. This will help you a lot when it comes time to start applying for scholarships and colleges.

Non-Readers

For those of you who don’t like to read, and you know who you are, the reading list is even more important. If reading isn’t your thing then you need to make sure that you don’t forget to record each book you read so that you aren’t “wasting” any of your time.

The List

The reading list is simple. It should include a lot of classic literature and great novels. Just include the name of the book, the author, the date you read the book, and a brief description. If a book impacted you in a big way, share more about it. Write about how the book impacted you, a mini book report. You don’t need to do that for every book, just your favorites. Try to read a little from a variety of subjects and genres.

How to Use it

The list can be used in two major ways. First, use it to help you write application essays. Scholarship applications and college admission applications usually include essays. Some even ask about books that impacted you. Having the list handy makes those essays a breeze.

The second way to use the list is to share with college admission staff additional information about you. Colleges what to know that you are focused on academics and that you can succeed in their program. Showing them a well-established pattern of reading through your reading list is an excellent way to do that.

Colleges ask for certain documents, but that doesn’t mean that that is all you are allowed to show them. Bringing some additional information about you is usually allowed and even encouraged. If you haven’t already, get started making your reading list today.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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3 Interesting College Stats

How you approach this whole “college” thing is a big deal. The decisions you will make are some of the biggest ones you have had the opportunity to make so far. They will also stick with you for a long time to come. How you think about college is important.

Here are some quick but interesting stats about what others think about college.

The Most Popular Degree

1. According to Pew Research most people are choosing to study business, 20.5% to be exact. Business has been the most popular bachelor’s degree since 1980. Before that it was education.

How Long You Go

2. Another interesting fact is that most students are choosing to attend college longer. 60% of students are taking 6 years to complete their bachelor’s degree rather than 4 years.  Less than 40% of students graduate “on time.”

What You Major In

3. Students who choose to major in science or engineering are the most likely to say that their degree prepared them for the job they really wanted.

That’s it, short and sweet. I’ll let you interpret the data however you like. In fact what do you think? I have some ideas but I’d really love to hear what you think these stats can tell us if anything.

 

 

Source: http://www.pewresearch.org/

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How to Graduate College Debt Free

Disclosure

In full disclosure let me start this post by saying I did not graduate college debt free. I didn’t learn this stuff until it was too late. The advice I’m about to give you is the advice I wish I would have been given in high school.

You don’t need to follow the herd. You’re not a sheep. Break out of the mold. A lifetime of student loan debt is not mandatory for a successful career.  I want you to be fully informed so that you can make the best possible choices for your future. So here goes, 3 simple ways to graduate debt free.

InsanityMoney

Student loan debt is a real problem. It’s crazy. It’s out of control. At 18 years of age I had no business taking out tens of thousands of dollars going into debt for a private college education I really couldn’t afford. But this is happening every day to a bunch of people across the country.

Close your eyes and imagine this scenario with me (wait, you’re reading this, so don’t close your eyes… just imagine).

An 18 year old guy walks into a bank and asks for a loan, we’ll call him Jimmy.

Jimmy: Hello Mr. Banker, I’d like to borrow some money.

Banker: Alright, how much would you like to take out?

Jimmy: Hmmm…. how about $75,000?

Banker: Okay, let’s see what we can do for you.  Do you have a job?

Jimmy: Nope.

Banker: Do you have any assets?

Jimmy: Nope.

 Banker: Do you have a high credit score?

Jimmy: Maybe, what’s a credit score?

Banker: Well Jimmy, a credit score is a 3 digit number generated by a mathematical algorithm using information from your credit report. It helps us predict risk and determine the likelihood that you will be able to fulfill your credit obligations and pay back your debt.

Jimmy: Oh. Then no, no I don’t.

Banker: Okay Jimmy, let me just run some numbers here…. alright finished. Congratulations Jimmy! You’re approved.

Absurd, right? Of course you wouldn’t loan some 18 year old bum with no job, no assets, and no credit score that kind of money.  But it happens every day, and it’s called student loans.

With massive amounts of students taking on massive amounts of debts each year, it’s no wonder we’re in the midst of a student loan crisis. Our nation currently has over 1 trillion dollars in outstanding student loan debt. That is a lot of money. Now combine that with the fact that the cost of college is consistently increasing way beyond normal inflation rates and hopefully you’re starting to understand the gravity of the situation.

Student loans are becoming a rather large problem.

Graduating College Debt Free

So what can we do about it? More importantly, what can you do about it? Well, let me make three simple suggestions on how you can make a stand against student loans and graduate debt free or at least with significantly less debt than most.

 

1. Selection

Where you go to college is important. A lot of people are willing to enter into a life time of debt all for the sake of going to a prestigious university. Let’s be real. You’re not rich (yet) and it’s not worth it. Go to a college you can afford.

Trust me.

It might not be as glamorous, but employers don’t care where you went; plus what’s more glamorous than not being broke and having to live in your parents’ basement after graduation?

2. Work

Work is good. Having a job in college will not cause you flunk out. In fact, the opposite is more likely to be true. A study done in 2012 by the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics found that students who worked up to 20 hours a week got better grades than students who did not work at all.

College is not adolescence continued. It’s a new chapter in your life.  The college experience is not a transition into adulthood, it is adulthood. It’s time to grow up.  Working is a part of adulthood, therefore work should be a part of the college experience.

Working in college will help you with developing a consistent schedule and it will teach you incredibly important things like balance, time management, prioritization, and other real world skills.

But, in this post we are talking about graduating debt free, so let’s not forget the fact that working throughout college will significantly lower the amount of aid you will need. Just pretend that free loan money was not available to you and that working was your only option.

3. Scholarships

While you are still in high school scholarships, should be your main focus. Treat scholarship searching like a part-time time job. Spending just 10 hours a week completing scholarships could yield a whole lot more money than working at the local fast food restaurant. During summer vacation kick it up a notch. Work on scholarships 20 hours a week and that still leaves you plenty of time for volunteering, vacations, or working.

Just a quick example of how working on scholarships can easily pay more than a summer job…

A student working 20 hours a week for 10 weeks (average summer vacation) at $7.50 an hour will make approximately $1,500 over the course of the summer. (20 x 7.5 x 10 = $1,500)

A student working 20 hours a week for 10 weeks could easily complete 40 (or more) scholarship applications. If the student was awarded only 10% of those scholarships and if those scholarships were a modest $1000 each the student would make $4,000 over the summer.

This example is a very conservative example. With that amount of time the student could have easily looked up a lot of high potential scholarships and devoted a lot of effort into them. Remember, scholarships can range from $100 up to a full ride. If you spent your whole summer working on scholarships and could earn a full ride, you would be making considerably more than a part-time fast food job.

There are a lot of other unique and creative ways to avoid racking up big student loans, share your ideas below.

 

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Why Being a Poser will leave you Broke

Honesty

Can we be really honest for just a minute? I have a question for you.

Are you a poser?

I’m guessing most of you know what a poser is, but if not, here’s what Google says…

Poser

Posers

So by Google’s definition, I’m guessing we’re all posers from time to time. Honestly, who doesn’t try to use money to impress others in some way or another? We buy clothes that may be just a little out of our price range. We drive nicer cars than we can afford so we lease them or take out loans. We buy dinner for our friends knowing that it’s going hurt later. Heck, even our cell phones say something about our status so we pay whatever we have to for them even if it costs us an arm and a leg.

Impressing other people isn’t cheap.

Sometimes we even feel such a strong need to impress others that we do it at great financial harm to ourselves. Take college selection for example.

As students start looking at colleges and begin to decide where they want to go, they have to process a lot of important school information: location, transportation, degrees offered, tuition costs, room and board costs, financial aid packages, work opportunities, etc.

The Elusive Prestige

Of course these are all really important and really smart things to be thinking about. But here’s the deal, 18 year olds aren’t only thinking about those things. If you’re going to college soon, chances are you’re thinking about less tangible, less quantifiable things; things like the culture of the school, the “fun-factor”, and how prestigious the school is.

A lot of high school seniors (and their families especially) are really concerned about that last one; prestige. Again, we turn to Google…

Prestige

Prestige is really, really important to a lot of students and their families when choosing a college. It’s as if certain colleges seem to be able to offer a higher level of esteem, respect, and status to their graduates. Highly esteemed colleges produce better quality graduates that are more desirable in the marketplace, right?

Certainly if employers knew you went to one of these highly respected schools they would be much more likely to offer you a job over the common shmuck that went to the community college down the road, right… right?

Well, probably not.

Honestly, employers are really not all that concerned with where you went to college. There are of course some careers that are an exception to this rule, but they are certainly not the norm. The truth is after you graduate college the only person who cares about where you went to school is you.

“Only the Best” Mentality

You’ve probably heard that you have to get into the best possible school that you can. This is taught to students all the time from teachers, counselors, and family members. Let me be the first to tell you, It’s not true. It sounds great but its horrible advice.

Better advice would be that you have to get into the best possible school you can realistically afford and that offers the best return on investment.

Just because you get accept to a prestigious school doesn’t mean you can afford it. It also doesn’t mean you should take out a life time of student loans to go there.

You really have to think these things through.

The kindergarten teacher who graduated with $150,000 in student loans isn’t going to be getting paid any better than the teacher who graduated with $10,000 in student loans. Remember, the only person who cares where you went to school is you.

So before you decide to sign on the dotted line and agree to take out a massive student loan in order to get into that super cool school, think about your motives. Who are you really trying to impress? Is their brief and passing admiration worth it? How super cool will it be when you have to pay $600 a month in student loans until you’re 40? How prestigious will it be when you have to move back into your parent’s basement after graduation because you’re broke?

Think about it. That’s all I’m asking.

As a guy who graduated from a rather expensive private university with a degree in education, I feel like I have a pretty decent understanding of this whole idea of getting a good return on investment for a college degree. I learned the hard way though. I spent too much plain and simple. I didn’t learn that until years later though.

So tell me your story. I’d love to hear your thoughts on this issue. Comment below to share.

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When Do I Start Preparing for College?

The best time to plant a tree

You’ve probably heard this quote a million times, “The best time to plant a tree is twenty years ago. The second best time is now.”

Well as it turns out, this principle applies to more than the casual arborist.

I believe that there’s no such thing as planning too early for college. Let me say right off the bat that I am not endorsing that every student should go to college. College is awesome; but, it is not for everyone.

That being said, I do believe that everyone should prepare for college. Regardless of if you decide to go to college or not, you need to have the option available to you and in order to have this option available you need to plan early.

So back to the question at hand, when should you start planning for college? Well, the earlier the better. In fact, college planning shouldn’t be something you wait until high school for.

Pre-K College Prep

College prep starts before kindergarten. No you aren’t practicing the SAT in pre-K, but you are exploring the world and discovering new and exciting things each day. All throughout elementary school you are learning about the world around you and more importantly you are learning how you fit into that world. You’re learning what you like and what you don’t like. You’re learning what your good at and what you love to do. That is some of the most important college prep you can do!file0001034424148

The Exploratory Middle School Years

By middle school, you’ve probably already figured out what kinds of things you’re good at. You know what you like and you know what you don’t. You’ve starting to think more about what kind of adult you will be. By the end of middle school, you’ve probably had a chance to learn about different careers through observation, shadowing, studies, or some other influence.

High School – Crunch Time

High school is when the more traditional college prep takes place. For a lot of students the light bulb doesn’t click until late in their junior year or even the beginning of their senior year. It’s about this time that the realization sets in that there’s a lot of work that goes along with getting into college. The truth is the earlier you start the less stressful it will be. As a freshman you can start preparing for college by doing a lot of simple things over the course of the next few years. Some examples include:

  • Take the required courses early.
  • Take the PSAT early and often to try for valuable scholarships.
  • Learn how to take the SAT and/or ACT and take it as early as possible and as often as necessary to obtain a high score.
  • Get involved in projects and take leadership roles in those projects.
  • Visit colleges, attend college event, s and talk to admissions staff and students.
  • Start saving money.

The list could go on and on but I think you get the point. College preparations don’t just take place your last two years of high school. So if you haven’t started yet, you need to.

“The best time to prepare for college is 20 months ago. The second best time is now.”

If you have any questions or comments please leave them below. I want to hear from you. What are you doing to prepare for college? When did you start preparing? Was the process stressful, simple, fun, nerve-wracking? Parents, are there any pressing college prep concerns you’re facing? Let’s start the conversation.

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Jennifer Jopson: Lessons From Travels Abroad

Ever thought about traveling abroad after high school? Sometimes it’s nice to get a new and fresh perspective on life. I love to hear from my readers and to share their successes. Jennifer is one of them. I follow Jennifer’s blog Turning the Tide partly because I traveled abroad in Ireland myself when I was a freshman in college and love reading her stories and checking out the beautiful scenic pictures. I also read it because it’s exciting  seeing high school and college students finding their passions and doing something with them.  So without further ado…

Lessons from Travels Abroad

Author’s note: Last week fellow Blogger Jered Blanchard asked me over email if I would like to do a guest blog for him about my experiences traveling overseas during my post-secondary education. I was happy to hear from him and said yes right away. I enjoy seeing what Jered’s up to on Live Declared. His college advice is very relevant and written in a cogent style. He always asks his readers to consider two sides to a situation and to contribute to the conversation. If I were in high school now reading his Blog, I am sure I would be more informed about decisions related to third-level education, such as test scores and my vision for the future. This is my first guest blog, and I’m honored that Jered asked me to write for him!

Jennifer's Travels

Feeling adventurous at Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge in North Antrim, Northern Ireland.

Why is overseas travel important during your college years? There are multiple answers. First, travel gives you the opportunity to experience the world with all your senses. While you initially take in an unfamiliar city or country with your eyes, the sounds, tastes, smells and the things you touch all contribute to a unique memory of the place. At the beginning, your senses are more acute until your body and mind have time to adjust. Travel is very tactile. Second, you get to go beyond the confines of the classroom and the textbook and apply your knowledge. For example, learning Chinese in lecture is restrictive because it is not always possible to get instant feedback on your language skills. If you travel there, on the other hand, you’re forced to use the language to communicate, and you get to take part culturally as well. Third, you learn a lot about yourself–your preferences, abilities, and beliefs. I decided to travel overseas because my parents instilled in me the desire to understand and appreciate new places. I wanted the chance to travel independently of them through my college experience, and so I chose to study abroad. Are you thinking about traveling overseas while you’re in college? The goal of this post is to give you ideas for your future travels.

Before I left for Ireland, I bought a Frommer’s guidebook and read it since I knew that I’d travel extensively around the country. I hoped to arrive there armed with useful knowledge. This is how I discovered the seaside towns of Dalkey and Skerries, as well as my favorite pub in Dublin, O’Neills. The book was well-written and organized, which made it easy to find the information I needed later. I used the tear-out map that came with it nearly every time I went out in Dublin, which helped me learn the streets. I also watched videos on YouTube related to typical cultural experiences in Ireland, and looked at Google Street View so I would know what to expect.
Over time I became better at asking people for help if I was lost. The great thing about Dublin is that nearly everyone is willing to give directions, and they’re usually right. It is much easier and less painful to ask instead of wandering around thinking you know which way to go. Just ask with a smile on your face and you’ll have more time to explore. Naturally, being in a friendly environment, it was not too difficult to strike up a conversation with the locals at the pubs or on the street. I talked to an Irishman about politics (he brought it up) and a bartender about the best places to find live music, but it wasn’t until my second to last night in Dublin that I had an intellectually stimulating conversation. The man from Belfast taught me to set my mobile aside and talk to people sitting by themselves–there’s craic (“having a good time “) everywhere, you just have to look for it.
Two other things I made sure to do were to take photographs and share them online, and tours. I loved capturing my experiences on camera and letting others see it as I did. I also did three-day coach tours from Dublin: one called the Wild Wicklow Tour where I saw Glendalough and surrounding areas, and the other two by Wild Rover Tours to Galway and Belfast/Giants Causeway. I highly recommend these tours, as the guides are very knowledgeable and make sure that you have a memorable experience.
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At Edinburgh Castle.

During the semester I traveled to Paris, France and Edinburgh, Scotland. What these trips have in common is that they were short getaways from college, and were also eye-opening experiences. When I went to Paris I had the mindset that the French are rude, arrogant people. It turns out that several people said ‘Bonjour’ to me, and I said ‘Merci’ a lot in two days! I realized the stereotype I placed on them was not fair: people are kind everywhere, and that the way we perceive others based on cultural norms create rifts in society. Enter a foreign country with an attitude of respect, as you are a guest, and be generous with others even if you do not understand them. My friend and I also had a few funny tourist moments, as she thought we actually needed more Metro tickets and we thought the Bastille was more than a simple monument. Don’t take yourself too seriously when you travel; it’s a lot more fun to laugh about things.

I traveled to Edinburgh and the Highlands for my program’s sponsored trip in March. My friends and I happened to meet at the airport, and so we made the journey together towards our hostels once we arrived. One thing I remember doing was taking in my surroundings and committing them to memory. Edinburgh isn’t a large city, but it is easy to get lost if you’re by yourself and it’s late at night. Particularly if you are female, it is important to stay in bright, public areas and travel with people you trust. Stay alert and know the area you are in. If you’re uncomfortable for any reason, retrace your steps and ask for help. I was lucky to travel with such a sensible group of girls. They insisted on walking with me to my hostel before they went off to theirs. I very much appreciated their company, especially as I would have passed the sign for the hostel if they hadn’t been there.
I’m grateful for travel opportunities I’ve had so far. While I’m not sure if I’ll be going abroad again any time soon, at least I can reminisce on my happy moments in Ireland, Paris and Edinburgh!
Thanks so much for reading. What are your thoughts about overseas travel after high school?
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Parker Mantell: Overcoming Self Doubt

As a Hoosier, I found this years Indiana University commencement speech pretty inspiring. Parker Mantell shares about overcoming setbacks and achieving great things in spite of his disability.

Enjoy.

Share your thoughts. I’d love to hear from you.

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How to get out of Admitting that you Dropped out of College

And the winner of this week’s “How to get out of admitting that you dropped out of college like a pro” competition is…

College is quite often a key step in the path to a successful career. Some of you will choose to go to college because it is the best way to get the career of your dreams. A lot of you will go because you don’t know what else to do. Even more of you will choose to go because of pride, pressure, obligation, and of course because only slack-jawed yokels don’t go to college.

That being said, I feel really bad for this girl.

Yes, Danielle Shea made some mistakes…

…like not telling her mom that she dropped out of college. And maybe she shouldn’t have pretended to be in college and continued taking her mom’s tuition money for her whole senior year. She also probably shouldn’t have dressed up and pretended that she was graduating at the commencement ceremony. Of course the multiple bomb threats to try and cancel the ceremony were also probably not the best idea. But what else could she have done!? She wasn’t in the bulletin and they weren’t going to call her name out as a graduate and all of her family was going to be there to see her and she didn’t know what else to do!  Police

Okay, so she made a lot of mistakes.

But isn’t it sad that people feel this kind of pressure to stay in school despite the fact that it probably isn’t the best fit for them. The idea that if you don’t get a degree you are a failure is crazy. This mentality causes people that shouldn’t go to college to go anyway and it often causes the people that should go to college to feel entitled.

College is a tool, a really important tool for a lot of people; but, a tool nonetheless. Your college degree doesn’t define you and it doesn’t entitle you to success.

Bottom line, Danielle Shea has demonstrated for us one heck of an option for how to get out of admitting that you dropped out of college… another option is to just do it. But hey, it’s your call.

Thoughts? Comment below.

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Education: Return On Investment

RROOII

A New Age

There was a time in history when a college degree would guarantee you a successful and profitable career. If you had a degree you enjoyed a nice big paycheck to go along with it. It was easy; a degree meant more money plain and simple.

That time has passed.

Sorry.

This is a new era. It is the age of college graduates who work at Arby’s. This is the age of graduate students who live in their parent’s basement. This is age of realization. It is a rude awakening. People are starting to realize that a degree isn’t the magic ingredient it used to be. A lot of the time it is necessary, but it is not enough. You can no longer flash a degree at an employer and expect money to be thrown at your feet.

A degree is a tool to help you shape your future. It’s a very expensive tool, but a tool nonetheless. Now, more than ever, it’s important to look at a degree as an investment in your future. When you look at an investment the one thing that simply cannot be ignored is the return on that investment.

What is ROI?

ROI (Return on Investment) is a performance measure used to evaluate the efficiency of an investment or to compare the efficiency of a number of different investments. Or more simply put, it’s what you’ll gain or lose from an investment.

An Example

If you look at a degree as an investment (which it is) then obviously some will yield a higher ROI then others. Let’s use the teaching profession as an example.

Two students from rural Indiana decided to follow their passions and become teachers. They both planned on returning to their home town to teach kindergarten in one of the local schools. They both got exceptional grades in high school and got great ACT and SAT scores. They had nearly every college and university available to them.

The first student applied to as many prestigious schools as she could.  She decided to go to a very competitive out of state college. She did not receive nearly as much financial aid or scholarship money attending this university. The degree was exceptionally expensive, but because she was accepted by such a prestigious school she thought she would be cheating herself if she didn’t go there.

The second student decided to go to a local community college. The college was small and fairly inexpensive. Because of her grades she was able to get some decent scholarships from the school. The school was not very well known, but she didn’t mind. The campus was close enough that she could live at home and because of that and her scholarships she didn’t need to take on any student loan debt to get her degree.

Upon graduation both student graduated with honors and were able to return to their home town and easily get a job teaching kindergarten in one of the local elementary schools.

Which student had the best return on investment from their degree?

Obviously the second student had the best return on investment. She was able to graduate without debt and start at the same salary as the first student who took on massive student loan debt to do the same thing. Both are going to be making about the same amount of money. Both are going to be kindergarten teachers. Both ended up in the same place, one just spent a lot more to get there. A quality education is important, but you shouldn’t be bankrupting your future to get it.

Earning Potential

You have to think about the earning potential of a degree. Why would a local elementary school in rural Indiana pay significantly more to hire an Ivy League grad than someone else with the same degree from a local college? Answer: they won’t.

There are a lot of noble and humanitarian careers that pay horribly. I would (almost) never discourage you from pursuing a career in one of those fields. They’re good jobs, but spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to get a job making $30,000 a year just doesn’t make sense. If you want to be a teacher, social worker, or some other equally underpaid profession, then you need to be realistic about how much you should invest in your degree (hint: less is better).

On the other hand, if you really want to impress people with you’re really expensive and prestigious degree then by all means ignore everything I’ve just written. I’m sure your co-workers won’t be able to get enough of your stories about how you went to an expensive Ivy League school.

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The Most Expensive Degree Ever

48%

The Most Expensive Degree

Do you know what the most expensive degree you can get is? I’ll give you a hint, it isn’t medicine. No, it isn’t law either. Fine, I’ll give you another hint; it’s one of the most common degrees in America; in fact, 48% of all college graduates have this type of degree.

Give up?

Okay here it is. The most expensive degree is…

(Drumroll please)

…the degree you don’t use.

That’s right; the degree you don’t use is the just about the most expensive degree you can get.  I recently read an article on Forbes that stated that 48% of bachelor level college grads in the U.S. are working in jobs that don’t even require a four year degree. That’s almost half of all college graduates that went to college and got a degree only to ignore it completely.

It makes sense though.

At 18, high school students are being ushered into the higher education system with very unclear plans for their future. Honestly, how much time do you think most students get to spend with their guidance counselor?

How much did you spend with one?

Have a Plan

A lot of young adults are getting ready to head off to college without knowing what they want to do.  They are going because it’s the path of least resistance or maybe they are going because they’ve been told it’s the key to success. They are kind of right. A degree is important, but it’s not the key to success it’s a key to success, and it’s only a key to success if it aligns with your passions and your talents and if you have thought of a feasible way to make money using the degree after you get it.

You don’t want to be one of the 48% of graduates who spent 4 years and a boat load of money on a degree you aren’t going to use.  Have a plan in place. Identify your passions and talents. Choose a degree that is necessary to get you to where you want to be. Spend some time thinking about what you want to be doing with your life before you start filling out college apps.

There’s no such thing as too early to start planning for your future.

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