Teenagers are faced with making huge decisions including - how much loan debt do I want to incur as I go off to college? My guest blogger for this month tackles this problem in her post below. Hope it resonates. Meg
For graduating high school students, college offers a myriad of opportunities. In college, students can earn a degree that will ideally prepare them for a lucrative career. They can take classes that appeal to their specific tastes and interests. They can join and develop a powerful social network that will both bring them great friendships and provide them with professional contacts.
Unfortunately, with a college education also comes a higher cost. Tuition is rising and the interest rates on educational loans are higher. Nowadays, college graduates need to evaluate these costs and make sure they can get a good return on their investment. Many are, in fact, doing so, as recent studies show that less college seniors major in the humanities because these degrees offer them a lower earning potential in their career.
So, in this new and costly educational environment, what sort of advice can we offer to incoming college freshmen?
Research, Research, Research
College students should research their career options as early as possible in order to figure out what careers might offer them a better income. By figuring this out, they can plan a college path that gets them a degree that qualifies them for that career field. They have, of course, many resources available to them, the career services office being the most obvious.
Another great resource is the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which gathers career data on income and job opportunities into a handbook online. Students can browse the careers or search for one to see what kind of options these careers may give them and what kinds of degrees and qualifications they’ll need to have in order to get the best job they can get. Such research could further help them decide if they need to pursue a graduate degree or not.
Select the Right Major
Once students have done their research, they need to weigh their career goals with their own desires to pursue what interests them the most. If they can find a major that prepares them for the right career while also allowing them to study what interests them, then that’s perfect. Most likely, however, they’ll need to make a decision. Do they major in a field that could get them a great job? Or do they major in a field that is really interesting to them, but might not be the best option for their career? I don’t know what others think, but my advice is that graduates should strive to prepare for a strong career. Doing so will allow them to earn an income that would allow them to pursue their interests on the side.
If college students follow my advice, they should still be able to take classes that seem interesting to them. Many colleges require students to earn elective course credits. This will give students an opportunity to take classes in subject areas unrelated to their major, but still on a topic that really interests them. It’s a way to get that emotional and intellectual return on their investment, so to speak, while still giving them a good financial future.
Be Careful With Debt
Finally, college students should be careful with the kinds of debt they go into. Although this point deserves its own post, I can offer a little basic advice. At some point, college students will have to consider whether or not they should take on some debt in order to fund their education. If they have picked a major that promises them a good earning potential, then debt may be a possibility and worth the risk. However, if the major doesn’t necessarily offer the financial return, then debt will surely add to the stress.
The important thing to do as a college student about to go into debt is to manage that risk.