4 Things High School Graduates Should Consider Before Picking a Major and Planning College

05/15/2012
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Academic procession at the University of Cante...

Academic procession at the University of Canterbury graduation ceremony 2004. Photo taken by User:Clawed. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It’s springtime for most of us, but for many aged 18 and 22 it’s more than just a new season. It’s graduation time. Sure, high school students and college students both go through the same ceremony we all recognize as graduation, but the two types of graduates are facing completely different financial/professional decisions.

For college graduates, it means starting a professional career and learning just what their employment and education is worth. Unfortunately for many college graduates in today’s soft economic recovery, it’s meant graduation from university into the school of hard knocks. Nearly one in eight aged 18 to 24 are unemployed.

High school graduates on the other hand are looking at a clean slate and possibly four full years at a college before entering the “real world.” It’s a conflicting miss-mash of new responsibilities and new freedoms. There will be several late hours of hard work and play. However, one decision is unavoidable and it’s picking a major. This seemingly small endeavor could shape your employment situation for the rest of your life. It can even be a factor in deciding whether you find employment after graduating from college.

Employment, how companies hire and the work done is constantly changing. Often changes are so quick, it’s hard to keep up. However, if you recognize where jobs and job technology are headed, you can get ahead in college. If a high school student were to ask me what they should do in college to prepare for a job, I’d have four pieces of advice.

Take Lots of Math and Technology

Last March the soon-to-be college graduate responded to me honestly, “I didn’t take any math or technology in college because it is really hard. I mean, that’s why I’m getting a history degree. The classes are easy and I like them.”

I know for a fact that most high school graduates decide at graduation that they will never take another class related to math or technology. I know this because most four-year degrees are awarded in humanities and social sciences. Yes, there are jobs in any field, but if you are basing your major on whether or not there is math or technology, you are probably wasting your time in college.

Think about it this way. Do you think employers pay large salaries to people who do things that are difficult or things that are easy?

Many young adults simply don’t see how fast the world is changing. Technology like smart phones are going to change how people buy, sell and interact. Businesses and organizations want to take advantage of new tools cropping up and they’ll need to hire employees that can use and adapt to these new technologies.

Get a Second Degree

I’m sure that there are plenty of people who would take me to task on this one, but I have a hard time understanding why anyone graduates college with only on degree. Most colleges structure their full-time tuition so that a second degree can be obtained. Most aspiring college graduates simply fail to see the benefits.

As Steadfast Finances points out, having two different degrees greatly boosts your chances of avoiding the unemployment line. It also creates flexibility for you to change fields or jobs if down the road, you decide you don’t like your first career path. It’s a free benefit for attending college and most students pass it up because it means a little more work.

Network, Network, Network

Some jobs are in high demand and students don’t have to do much more than graduate. However, many other jobs have fierce competition. The best way to get a leg up in competitive careers is to network. However, few students who are finishing up their masters in secondary education or any other degree for that matter take advantage of the opportunity in college to connect with people in their field.

Many colleges offer internship programs and paid co-operatives. They also may invite area businesses for special events. If you want to land a job out of college, you can’t afford to pass up any networking opportunities that the college offers.

Geography of Your Work

Surprisingly, few college students think long and hard about geography before picking a major. However, where you want to live is a major consideration. If you go to school to design high performance car engines, odds that most of your prospective employment opportunities are in Detroit. There are job hubs all over the US and you need to be careful that you aren’t picking a major that has no job prospects in the area you want to live.

There are plenty of ways to boost your job prospects long before you graduate college. The best thing that you can do is plan ahead of time and start early.

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