A piece of ageless advice to consider when making plans to do anything is, “begin with the end in mind.” Stephen Covey taught us to do this with his second habit. This habit/advice should be placed squarely in the center of the college planning process.
With all the fear and anxiety generated by media outlets, misunderstanding of the process and the colleges themselves; parents and students need to take a step back and consider the desired outcome of going to college. I don’t mean a general outcome like a good job or increased employability. If that is all you want, train to be a plumber or HVAC technician. You will always have more work than can be done and make a lot more money than most people realize.
An acceptable outcome in my mind is a targeted career area. If the interest is health care, we are likely looking at a four year degree. But, there are some positions in the health care industry that only require associates degrees. Where in all of health care does the student see themselves? Setting out to become a Registered Nurse is very different that becoming a Physician’s Assistant or a Gastric Surgeon. But, like so many other career areas; if the student in an RN program decides they want a Bachelors of Nursing degree, they don’t have to start over in order to achieve the loftier goal. The train wreck happens when the major jumps from medical to something totally unrelated like engineering. Very few of the courses will find a home on the new transcript. This kind of about face when changing majors can waste a lot of time and even more money.
My clients are asked to make a long-term commitment to a career area and a short-term commitment to a major. If they decide to change majors it must be under these conditions; continue with the current major until we meet and modify the original plan and stay within your career area. Of course, that is easier said than done in some cases but the intent is to minimize lost time and money. If the groundwork is done to identify good career options before going off to college, the plan usually works well.
I believe it is much easier to map out a route when you know where you are as well as where you are going. If the destination is a mystery, you could end up anywhere. Sometime anywhere is a very uncomfortable place to be…