Whether you are starting college directly after high school or during another time in your life, choosing the right post-secondary education is integral to your career. While this may seem like a lot of pressure, choosing correctly isn’t all that difficult: you simply need to decide what school fits best for you.

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Before enrolling in a college or university, consider assessing the “fit” by doing the following:

Speaking with Students on Campus
Speaking with students who actually attend a college you are considering can give you first-hand insight into the campus’s inner-workings. You may ask students about the teacher to student ratio, about the class difficulty, about extra-curricular activities and clubs offered, and about their overall satisfaction. You may even consider shadowing a student for a class or two. Most students will likely be amenable (particularly if you agree to take notes for them).

Narrowing Your Choices
Experts recommend that you narrow your choices to between six and ten schools. These schools should ideally be diverse, with the chance of admission ranging from low to high. Your academic and personal strengths, academic and athletic accomplishments, grade point average, and your standardized testing scores should dictate this list.

Getting an Education You Can Actually Use
A degree in philosophy may be interesting, but it’s not all that practical: it turns out there aren’t that many (or any) philosophy companies looking to hire. Rather, degrees like philosophy (and several others) are generally only useable for people who go on to get a Masters or a Doctorate. Instead of going this route, consider the benefits of trade school, especially since students at a trade school learn skills in areas applicable to today’s workforce, career specificity (such as phlebotomy or cosmetology), relevant skills and certification, and lifetime placement assistance.

Inquiring About Career Support Services
A college education is great, but it’s not going to pay the bills (or the student loans) unless it leads to a job. This is where career support services can really make a difference and should be one of the things you inquire about when trying to find the right college. These types of services can help you with things like writing a resume, writing a cover letter, honing your interviewing skills, and searching for jobs or internships.

Not Relying on Name Brand Colleges
It may be nice to say that you went to Yale or that you received a degree from Cornell, but, according to National Public Radio, the perks may stop with the ego boost. Many employers don’t really care where you went to college; they only care that you went to college. Experience (academic or work-related), skills, and talent are almost always more important than collegiate pedigrees.

Asking Yourself the Most Important Question
Before enrolling in a college, ask yourself a simple – but important – question: why are you really going? Are you going for the experience? Are you going to get certification in a specific area? Are you going to get your Bachelors on the way to a Masters? Once you know that answer, your choice in school may just be made for you.

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