College is typically the next step for several high school students or for individuals in general who want to meet their career goals. Let me be clear. I am a huge advocate for college education, if you are ready. Now you might ask, well what do you mean by "if you are ready?" Well, let me tell you. So often I have seen young people enter college because someone else has told them that it is the next logical step. These students who enter college because someone told them it was the next thing to do and who do not evaluate the value college could bring to their life, could waste time and money if they are not careful. Again, I work in higher education, so I see daily the benefits that college provides for students. In this same way, I see many lost students in college who just came to please others or because they did not know what else to do with their life. College is about a plan and so I do not advise anyone to enter college without having thought about how they will move through their four or more years at an institution. So here are some questions to help you evaluate if you are ready for college. If you do not feel ready for college, use the questions below as tips to get ready and start college on the right track.
1. Are you attending college for yourself or for someone else? I know we live in a world where the next step after high school is college for most people. However, be sure to ask yourself if you are attending college because it just seems like the thing to do or because you have truly thought about the ways college can contribute to your future goals. This is an important answer because if others are pushing you when you aren't ready, they can't complete your assignments for you and they might not be available when you are up late studying for a final. If you haven't thought about why you are attending college, ask yourself this: "what do I see myself doing in the future and how will college contribute to my future goals?"
2. Do you know your potential major? If you do not know this answer, it doesn't mean college isn't for you, but you do need to be aware of resources at the college you choose to attend that can help you choose a major. At most schools there are first-year experience courses or academic advisors that can assist you with strategies to choose a major or area of interest. I would hate for someone to waste four or m ore years on a degree only to find out they wanted to be trained in a different area for which they have a passion. So, if you do not know a potential major and have not set a plan to get help in choosing a major, look into this before you head to college.
3. Do you plan to split your time between class and home? What I am getting at with this question is extracurricular activities in addition to your degree. Consider this-you have completed college and are competing for a job against three other classmates with the same or a similar degree. What else do you have to offer? Your degree is a first step to the career you want, but what other soft skills do you bring to the table? Do you have good organization skills? Do you work well in teams? Do you know your leadership strengths? These are skills you can gain by being involved beyond the classroom while in college. So, if you plan to just go to class and head home right after, consider how that choice could affect future opportunities when you are on the job market or when you are applying for other leadership positions.
4. Do you have good study skills? College is hard, and I am sure you have heard this. It will require more hours and more critical thinking than your time in high school. The good news is that there will be people equipped to help you develop these skills if you need that assistance. Good study skills and a study schedule will help you stay on track and organized as you complete assignments and move through your degree program. If you feel you have horrible study skills, you do not have to figure it out alone. Seek the assistance of study and tutoring centers at your institution. I see too many students sit by and not do well in a course because they thought there was no help. There is help, so be sure to ask questions about study skills assistance and tutoring for your classes.
5. What's your plan for after college? This question is related to the first question about understanding why you are attending college. Having a plan for after college means that you do not expect a degree alone to get you the job or career you want. I have heard many students exclaim after obtaining a degree and having difficulty finding a job, "I wasted time on this degree." It is not necessarily that they wasted time, but the proper plan may not have been in place. For this reason, consider internships or other opportunities that give you hands-on experience in your potential job field. This is one way, among many others to stand out. Having a plan also means that you have considered how your degree fits into the grand scheme of your future life.
I hear so many people say college is a scam. It’s not. BUT you do have to plan for it. There are people who are successful without a college degree, but those individuals had a plan and are few and far between. Let's be honest, you do not want your medical doctor without a college education. Furthermore, you have to be honest with yourself and consider the current job market and the likelihood of landing a job without higher education. So, if you are thinking about college, be clear on why you are going, how you will use what you learn to stand out and your end goal for obtaining a college degree.