Targeted Strategies That Will Save Your College-Bound Student Time AND Money

Targeted StrategiewThere is nothing like the thrill of a student finishing high school and accomplishing his or her goal of beginning higher education at a great college or university program.  It is the end of one stage of life and learning, and the beginning of another, with the promise of a bright future on the horizon.

 

College is an exciting time for young people in general, during which they can learn and grow and expand their academic horizons.  However, it is also a time during which a college student must have an appropriate level of focus, or the college years can lead to uncertainty, frustration, academic rambling, and lengthy years of study with no particular goals and a huge financial drain on the family budget.

 

students taking long time to graduate

We have spoken at length in months past about the troubling trend of today’s college students taking an average of between five and six years to complete a four-year bachelor’s degree.  This is worrisome not only because of the time lost in pursuing their academic goals, but also the loss of income from their future careers… not to mention the additional expense of adding 50% to college costs!

 

One of the best ways for a student to manage his or her college career effectively is to have a good idea early on about a major (and minor, as the case may be).  There are some excellent options and strategies for helping to prepare future college students to know which direction they would like to take their college career, and in this month’s newsletter we have decided to share some of these important elements of college preparation with you directly.  The more prepared your child is for his or her higher education, and the more he or she knows about the personal interests that should shape the future program of study, the better off the entire family (and the family budget) will become!

 

With that in mind, please consider some (or all) of these suggestions to help your own college bound student prepare for the selection of a major degree of study at the next level.  Many of these strategies can and should be implemented well before the start of the college years, so there is no problem at all with getting started early.

 

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1) Utilize Internships… Or Even Better, Externships

 

internships for high school studentsIt is an excellent idea for your child to gain some early experience and insight into what fields could be of the most interest for his or her future studies.  Internships are one great way to for your child to figure out which majors (and possible careers) could be best for him or her. It can also be one of the more critical tools for helping determine which area of study one should choose. Many high schools and most colleges will offer programs (and even college credit) for internships, so in addition to giving your child an idea of what the ‘real world’ will be like in a particular field, he or she could also be earning college credit. This is also an important way for your child to make connections in an area of interest for them.

 

Let’s face it, many employers are no longer looking solely at college degrees and grades. It has become increasingly complex for new graduates to find work after college, and making the right kinds of connections early on – yes, even during high school – can prove to be very helpful to your child in the long run.  The professional world is a much more competitive climate so making the best impression and having the right experience on your child’s resume will help to set him or her apart.

 

Employers who see hard-working interns often take notice. They also like to see this type of experience on resumes. Of course, it should go without saying that interns must be reliable, complete work on time, be respectful to their employers, and go above and beyond if they want to make a positive impression. The internship is a two-way street, however.  It is also a chance for the intern to make certain that a certain field is actually of interest to him or her, which is one reason that an early internship can be extremely valuable as a diagnostic tool!  Nobody wants to find out in the senior year of college that they cannot stand the work environment in their chosen field of study.

 

However, another option – which is often underutilized by many students – is an externship. Externships are usually a little different than internships. While internships can last for 2-3 months (some can even last up to a year, which requires special planning for students!), externships are much shorter. In fact, some can even last for just one week, or even a few days.  Because of this, externships are ideal for students who want to take advantage of these opportunities over a holiday break, a long weekend, or summer vacation. An externship might be the perfect type of opportunity for a student to decide whether or not s/he would like to commit further by applying for a longer term internship… or even a career

 

2. Plan College Coursework Accordingly

 

50-80% of students begin college without a specific major in mindSome statistics show that approximately 50-80% of students begin college without a specific major in mind. While that thought could provide some peace of mind to students who are feeling pressure to decide what to do with the rest of their lives once they set foot on campus, it also shows that there is a variety of levels of knowledge when it comes to how students see their futures. Regardless, not only is it quite common and normal not to be 100% certain about a major, some amount of uncertainty may be a good idea.  Here is why…

 

It is perfectly all right for a student to start off as “Undecided,” provided that he or she plans the early semesters of school intelligently.  You see, taking time to decide on a college major does not have to halt the ability to graduate on time – in fact, it should not delay things at all.  Freshman students at virtually any college or university can enroll in “core classes” (mandatory subjects that will be counted towards graduation requirements) while he or she decides which major is the most interesting to pursue.  In the meantime, your child can talk with professors, visit with different departments, take a variety of required courses, and talk to other students within certain disciplines in order to find out which major will be the right fit.

 

While some students already know what they want from Day One, and that is fine, that is often less common than taking some time to make such a “major” decision.  Using the above method will take much of the pressure off of your child and allow him or her to make a decision that is most appropriate for his or her future.

 

3. Looking Beyond The Diploma

 

end goal of educationYour child may be one who is completely sure of which major he or she wants to choose, or who decides quite early which major is the most interesting. This can make things a bit easier in the early going, assuming the interest remains intact, because your child can start classes right away within his or her major. (Note, of course, that the “core classes” will also be required for graduation… there is no getting around that just because a student has selected a major of study!).

 

Starting off right away with a desired major will also make it easier to graduate on time. This, of course, saves not only time but tuition money as well. With college students remaining in school longer and longer, savvy students will plan accordingly to get out on time and ready to start working on their careers.

 

However, the end goal is not only the completion of the degree, but also the work opportunities that come after graduation.  One thing that your child should do early on is to list some of the possible professions that are related to his or her major. This can help to keep your child motivated by beginning the task of college with the end in mind.  It can sometimes be difficult when exams come and everyone is overloaded with obligations and stress to remember precisely why students are there, and putting up with all of that stress, in the first place.

 

Keeping focused on what that degree will help to bring your child can help to keep them focused on getting through to the end.  This can also be something that students can talk about with mentors who they meet through internship or externship opportunities, as well as professors in their field of interest.

 

4. Minors Can Be Major

 

Some students may find that they are interested in more than one field, or that they have additional talents and interests that develop over the course of their minors can be majorscollege career.  It can sometimes cause unnecessary stress for students as they try to decide between two equally beloved areas of emphasis… but truthfully there’s often room for more than one subject within higher education.

 

Completing a minor area of study with a bachelor’s degree can be an asset for those who have diverse interests, additional marketable skills, and can even offer an option as a fall-back profession.  Some students have seen great success with minors in a foreign language, a scientific pursuit, or business emphases.

 

Employers – and even professional school programs like law and medicine – can be extremely interested in candidates who take a serious (and proven) interest in something other than the declared major. In a climate that embraces individuals with diverse skills, this can only prove to be helpful in the long term.

 

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The preparation for an appropriate college major is, of course, only one vital part of the overall preparation for higher education… and there are elements for the student to manage, as well as elements for the parents to manage!  One of the most important parts for parents to deal with is the financial readiness for the diverse expenses pertaining to college or university studies.  Unless a family is independently wealthy, this aspect simply cannot be ignored until the last minute if there is to be any expectation for a workable financial plan.  This is one of the reasons that we constantly work to educate parents of college-bound high school students, to make sure that the transition to the next level of education is a smooth and seamless one, both for the student, and for the family.

One of our most successful efforts in this area includes the live presentation of College Funding Workshops, which are designed specifically for the parents of high school students who are planning on higher education after graduation.  These presentations are designed and presented by some of the best college funding professionals available.  We make sure that they cover the specific interests and requirements of the parents of those high school students who will make up the next generation of college or university students.  We always schedule these workshops at times that will fit into the busy schedules of parents, including weekend dates to allow attendance around different work shifts.  We never charge an admission fee for our workshops… however, due to seating limitations and to allow for presentation planning, we must request an advance reservation for those who wish to attend.

 

If you would like to receive more information about future College Funding Workshops planned for your area, simply make a call to our staff and talk with a member of our excellent workshop team.  You can reach us at 818.839.6600.  During your call we can offer you the upcoming schedule options, answer your questions with regard to the different locations, and make a reservation for the actual workshop that best fits your availability.

In addition to our workshops, we are please to have published a special report that was created specifically to help parents with the fiscal elements of higher education.  This free report has also been prepared especially for parents and discusses some of the important basics about the college funding process.  It is called “Nine New Ways To Beat The High Cost of College,” and it offers important information about planning financially for the college or university education of your son or daughter.  It also is an excellent resource for basic questions about financial aid.  For a free copy of the “Nine New Ways To Beat The High Cost of College“ report, simply call our office staff at 818.839.6600.  We will put a copy of this report into the mail for you right away.

Until next month,

 

Michael Budnick

 

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