Going to college is a big decision, but unfortunately many people, especially those who are going into higher education straight after high school, don’t put enough thought into what they are going to do, or even why they are doing it. If you are thinking of pursuing a college degree, the following factors should be considered before you go any further.
Plans for the future
Of course, it is difficult to plan three or four years ahead, especially when you are still in your teens and it feels like a lifetime away. Nevertheless, you should make an effort to think about what you want to do when you graduate and how you are going to use your degree. That way, you will be able to ensure you choose the best course for you and, within the course, specialist subjects that will build up your knowledge and relevant qualifications. It isn’t too late to change your mind half way through a course if necessary, but it is much better to choose the right course in the first place to avoid wasting time.
Necessary qualifications for your chosen career
For some careers, a degree is a necessity. You can’t become a doctor or a lawyer without the relevant degrees, for example. However, in other careers, it is possible to work your way up and sometimes, the work experience may be more valuable than studying for a degree. Any more academic parts of the job can be studied at evening classes, or as part of in-house training. The other advantage, of course, is that you won’t have to face student debts and will hopefully be able to get on the property ladder much earlier. And you can, if you so choose, decide to go to university later on.
Again, it can be difficult to judge when you may not be looking for a job for another few years, but you do need to consider your future employment opportunities. As Panos Mourdoukoutas points out in a Forbes.com article, if too many people pursue the same career, the job opportunities will be limited and some people will be disappointed. Try to find your niche by combining something that really interests you with something in which only a few people specialise. That will increase your future employability, especially if you try to gain relevant work experience while doing the course.
Degrees aren’t cheap. If you are lucky enough to have parents who can afford to put you through university, or you have already saved the money, you may not have to go into debt to complete your degree. Otherwise, the chances are that, even if you work your way through college, you will end up owing money at the end of it. That isn’t necessarily a reason to not go ahead with your plans, but you would be wise to estimate how much money you will owe and how much disposable income you are going to have throughout your time at college. Then you will be motivated to find ways of funding your degree as you go along.
The course’s reputation
Find out as much as you can about the courses you are looking at before you make a final decision. It is often tempting to choose a course based on the university, believing that future employers will be more impressed by a degree from a top notch university. That may well be true, but you need to do your research to ensure that it is the case. Some courses, for example, are more vocational than others, which may be more relevant to what you want to do, or you may want to study under a particular professor. If possible, go and visit the college in question and ask as many questions about the course as possible. Spending time with current students is a good way of doing this.
The personal advantages of pursuing a degree
It is very necessary to consider the cost implications of a degree and the employment opportunities that will result, but there are personal advantages to consider too. Doing a degree can train you to think in an analytical way; it also gives you access to a wide range of people, allowing you to develop your own personal philosophy. There are also networking opportunities galore, both while you are at university and once you have graduated, which can place you in the limelight of your chosen profession. Finally, the experience that going to college provides could well be invaluable in the future.
To make the very most out of pursuing a college degree, you should make an effort to find out as much as possible before doing so. It won’t ensure that you don’t change your mind in a couple of years’ time, but it will lessen the chances of that happening.