Going ‘Undecided’ is the wrong choice

When I started at IN College Planning 3 years ago, I was slow to jump on the ‘career development first’ bandwagon. I couldn’t believe that any kid was capable of making a decision about his or her future–it all seemed too big…too permanent.

The IN College Planning staff patiently walked me through our timeline, more than once, and I was still pretty sure that most kids would be clueless when it came to college planning. There were several takeaways that made sense though, so I thought I’d highlight them first and then admit…I was wrong, all wrong about career development for teens.

1. More teens than ever before select a major before they apply
The colleges follow this trend as carefully as we do at IN. Because a greater number of students come into college with a major in mind, schools plan events specifically for these incoming freshmen. From department-focused advising to opportunities available to majors-only, the declared students hit the ground running when they arrive on campus.

2. Once you have a plan, your coursework can reflect it
From adding foreign language courses to doubling down on the science classes to take, students who identify a major before college can often alter their high school coursework to reflect these plans. In particular, CCP classes are a great way to become familiar with the subject matter AND save some cash later on.

3. Cash? Did someone say cash?
That’s right, it’s cheaper to go to school with a major in mind. Students with a plan in place are typically able to complete their degree on time, saving money in school and allowing them the opportunity to start earning money earlier too. The average college student takes 6.4 years to graduate. Scholarships last for 4 years–the extra 2.4 can cost more than the previous 4! The extra 2 years might be the bulk of the student loan debt you carry–this is completely avoidable!

4. A minor is a great place to dabble
One of the joys of college is attending classes to glean knowledge previously inaccessible. In some ways, that’s what the general education coursework is for. I remember the first time I realized I wouldn’t need to take a general “American History” to satisfy my history requirement. Instead, I opted for AH 1901-1920 and for the first time, understood the impact of the Industrial Revolution and the Teapot Dome Scandal. I took additional courses in history due to my love of the subject, eventually earning a minor. My astronomy class was equally revealing–I knew I loved the stars and thought astronomy would be majestic…and easy. Instead, without a background in high school physics, I swam upstream the entire (single) semester. Either of these might’ve been a minor for me, and while neither seems like the best support of my major (psychology) the other 2 minors I eventually pursued were far more relevant to the work I do daily.

With these points in mind, career development before college seems like a pretty good idea. While I still had my doubts that selecting a major was actually possible in high school, I remember an exercise Aaron suggested, that I look at my high school self and determine the following:

A–what I liked to do
B–what I was good at
C–what other people thought I was good at

Within minutes, I filled a whiteboard with these items, all of them pointing toward the career path I’m on. That’s when I understood. Although I am not the human I was in the last century, my likes and dislikes and interests have barely shifted. The set of skills and proclivities I scribbled haven’t really changed. Without realizing it, I selected a major while in high school, and it stuck.

That is the heart of career development. We work with your teen to assemble the answers for questions A to C and then we find a number of careers that lie neatly at the intersection of those interests. By the time your teen is ready to apply to college, he’s got a well-vetted list of colleges, each good at preparing him for the world of work. No abracadabra, or personality tests; at IN we recognize that no one knows your teen as well as she knows herself.

Does this seem too good to be true? Take a meeting with us, and let IN show you how it works.

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