4 Tips for Career Focused College Planning

When you sit down to start applying for colleges, the process can seem overwhelming. As a high school student, it’s not hard to see that your collegiate career will be something new and completely different from what you might be used to. So, choosing the right school is crucial, especially if you’re expected to be accepted by multiple universities.

Some students end up just “going with their gut” when it comes to college planning. But, if you really want to feel confident about the schools you’re applying to, look at them with your long-term career goals in mind.

If you already know the career you want, it can make narrowing things down easier. Even if you don’t, recognizing your current hard and soft skills and the things that interest you might help you decide which long-term path is for the best. For example, if you excel in math, you might want to consider schools that are well-known for graduates with careers in engineering, data science, or accounting.

With that in mind, let’s look at a few tips you can use for career-focused college planning, so the process remains as easy as possible.

1. Don’t Let Doubt Hold You Back

Do you have a specific career or passion you feel is truly calling you? If so, that’s what you should go after. Unfortunately, far too many students (and even adults)  hold themselves back from certain careers because they might not currently be widely represented.

Some jobs in this country simply lack diversity. Some of the least diverse jobs include:

  • Veterinary medicine
  • Farming
  • Mining machinery
  • Sheet metal working
  • Aircraft piloting
  • Paramedic jobs

A lack of diversity is also a major problem in engineering, largely due to unconscious bias – especially against women in the industry. If you’re a minority, it’s important not to let “the norm” hold you back. Don’t doubt yourself when it comes to a career you truly want. You could be a trailblazer that encourages generations behind you to follow their own career dreams.

2. Get Specific

When you think about almost any major employment sector, you can probably list off a handful of jobs within that sector. Some might have similarities, but they’re separate jobs for a reason.

For example, you might want to work in healthcare. But, consider how many jobs fall under that category and how different they are. If possible, narrow down your career choice(s) to more than just an industry. When you have a specific job in mind, you can start focusing on schools that will offer the most valuable degrees for that particular career.

3. Use People as Resources

The good news about applying for college is that you don’t have to do it on your own. Yes, you’re the one that has to fill out applications and make the final decision. But, there’s nothing wrong with getting some guidance along the way.

Use your resources – the people already in your life, and people who might have some expertise in the career(s) you’re interested in. If you’re not sure who to reach out to for help, consider the following: 

  • Your current school guidance counselor
  • Someone currently in a career position you’re interested in
  • Your parents
  • College professors
  • College alumni
  • College career centers

Talking to different people will help you to understand different perspectives about a specific major and/or career. Start by looking through the course catalogs of schools you’re interested in. If you have a career in mind, what courses will you need to take to satisfy your training, and do they jump out at you? You can discuss things like that with any of the suggested individuals listed above, and they can open your eyes to the college and career that is right for you.

4. Be Practical

While location shouldn’t necessarily determine where you go to school, it can certainly play a role. You should consider several things when you’re looking at the geographical location of a college, including whether you would like to live there for four or more years of your life, and what career advantages the location might provide.

For example, depending on the career you’re interested in, going to a small college in the middle of nowhere might make it harder to get a job in big business. Instead, going to a popular university will likely not only give you the education you need, but it will be easier to take on an internship.

However, you shouldn’t go to a big, busy college if it doesn’t feel right for you. For some students, picking a place closer to home is more important. Some only consider college rankings.

If you’re thinking about your career, practicality is key when it comes to your selection. Keep these tips in mind to stay focused on those career goals as you start filling out applications, so you can have peace of mind in knowing you’re making the right choice.

Bryce Hall