Choosing the right Career Path

It may surprise you that 80% of college students change their major at least once.  Sometimes these changes are small shifts within a field of study.  However, some changes constitute major shifts that can affect your financial plan for college. One of the ways you can minimize these changes is by exploring a career path before you make your college major decision.  Let’s look at some of the tools available to help students explore a career path.

Exploring a Career Path: Career Fair

One tool to help you explore a particular career path is a career fair.  Sometimes these fairs are held at local schools, sometimes they are held in conjunction with local college fairs.  The benefit of these fairs is that you get to ask any question you may have about a particular job.  It may not offer you the specific information you need, but at least you get to meet someone who actually works in that career.

Exploring a Career Path: Shadowing/Internship

Another valuable tool is shadowing or internships.  Shadowing is simply following a person in a particular career for a short amount of time.  While an internship affords you the opportunity to actually work in a particular career for an extended amount of time.  As you can see, these opportunities allow you to actually see what a particular career would entail.  This is beneficial information to help you make a good decision when choosing a career path.

Exploring a Career Path: Career Roadmap

One tool that may be available to you is a career roadmap.  A career roadmap is an assessment tool you fill out to determine what career path may be of greatest interest to you.  The career roadmap would ask you questions to determine what career may be the best fit for you.  It certainly eliminates any career choices that would not be a good fit and may help you choose that perfect fit major for you.  A good assessment tool will include information like: pay range, average job satisfaction ratings, employment opportunity, and testimonies of people currently employed in that field of employment.

No tool will ever be able to eliminate changes in one’s college major, they will give you better confidence in your decision.  Remember, not all tools are created equally.  So choose well, and use a variety of tools.  We offer one of the best roadmaps on the market, so if you would like more information, please contact our office.

 

 

Early Decision and Early Action

October is an important month in your college planning.  It starts with the important task of filling out your FASFA but also includes an important decision.  Do you want to try to obtain admission early?  For most colleges, the deadline for early admission is November 1st, that makes October the month to apply.  Early admission offers some benefits, but the terminology can be confusing at best, and detrimental at worse.  So here are the facts about Early Decision and Early Action.

The Facts about Early Decision

Early decision is the process of applying early to your specific college with the intention of attending that college if accepted.  This is a binding agreement between the college and the student.  It shows the college that you as a student are serious about attending their college.  While it does allow the student greater opportunity to be accepted before the admission spots are taken, this form of early admission is “usually” binding.

The word “usually” offers a great amount of confusion.  While many sources say that it is totally binding, others say that it is only binding if the financial award meets the financial need.  (See our post on words of confusion.)  Also, you need to note that it is up to the family to demonstrate that the financial aid package does not meet the need.  So make sure you read the information for your specific college regarding early decisions

The Facts about Early Action

Another option is early action.  “Early action is a type of early admission process for admission to colleges and universities in the United States.”(1) The greatest benefit of early action is the fact that it is not binding.  Another benefit is that students are free to apply early to other colleges.  The student will benefit from early action because it still shows that the student is serious about attending that particular college.  The student also benefits from being able to compare the financial offerings from different colleges before making a final decision.

A new kind of hybrid option is the single choice early action option (SCEA).  While not binding, it acknowledges the students’ willingness to attend that particular college by only applying there.  The student is free to apply to other colleges during the regular admission round.

The important thing to remember is to make sure you understand your colleges’ early admission guidelines.  These guidelines are usually available online and are always available through a conversation with your admission advisor.  We think the best early admission option is Early Action since it allows you to compare financial offerings to find the best fit for your family.

(1) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Early_action

Is your College Major a right fit for you?

Choosing a college major can be one of the most formidable tasks in the college preparation process.  It is common for a student to enter college as “undecided” as to their college major.  And even those who have decided, few actually pursue that field of study to its end.  It is widely reported by many colleges that roughly 70% of college students change their major at least once…some change it more than once.  Here are a few suggestions to help with the arduous task of choosing a college major.

College Major Suggestion #1: Current School Activities

What are you enjoying now about school?  What are the subjects in which you excel?  If you find something you really like to do now, it may be because you have a natural ability or interest in that area.  Why not follow something in your area of current interest.  For instance, if you like inspecting, measuring and monitoring, you may want to pursue something in the field of physics.  Or if you have an interest in artistic expression, like drawing or designing, you may want to consider music or visual arts.  Remember, this is just one area of interest, but it allows you to at least begin to see what college major may be a good fit for you.

College Major Suggestion #2: Other School Activities

What are some of the extracurricular activities that capture your time?  Once you have looked at the academic side of school, now take a look at the other school activities in which you are involved.  Perhaps you are a part of the drama club, school government, fundraising, clubs or religious activity.  These areas provide some further details into our likes and dislikes.  Don’t pay much attention to the activities that are forced, but rather the activities that you enjoy.  For instance, do you enjoy organizing events or planning work activities?  You may want to consider event planning or fundraising.  Or, if you love researching information and keeping accurate records, you may want to consider research or project management.  As you travel through these suggestions, each one allows you to see greater details about which college major may be a right fit for you.

College Major Suggestion #3: Current Leisure Activities and/or Hobbies

What are the activities that you do just for fun?  These activities offer some of the most important insights into who you are.  For instance, if you enjoy recording the events of your day in a journal.  You may want to consider writing.  Or, if you enjoy playing sports, you may want to consider physical training, performing, or even coaching.

As you walk through these self-introspecting suggestions you can begin to see a more accurate picture of what college majors may be a right fit for you.  One of the services we offer to our clients is a tool that helps students find the right college major for them.  Finding the right college major will save you time and money.

Finding College Funds: Investigate State Aid

Finding funds for college is one of the most daunting tasks associated with college financial planning.  Most people start with an internet search for scholarships.  For many, this “simple” search turns out to be not so “simple”.  Not only is it not so simple, but it can be dangerous, as there are many scams to avoid.  However, if you do not search, you will not find.  So today, let’s go on a hunt to find college aid funds.  And let’s be specific in our hunt and investigate state aid.

Now remember there are only two forms of aid, gift aid and self-help aid.  For more information on those types of aid, see our post regarding understanding your award letter.  We are going to do this together.  So go ahead and open up your favorite internet browser to your favorite search engine and let’s get started.

State Aid Search

You can start by doing a simple search of the words, “State college aid”.  Search results will vary among search engines, but my search found 8 million results.  Don’t worry, you won’t have to look at all of them.  For a more specific search, insert your state’s name.  For me that would read, “college aid for Connecticut”.  This time, my search found 19 million results.

On the first page of my result, I see a site that was on both my searches.  So, I am going to open it first.  The site is collegescholarships.org.  This is in no way an endorsement of this website, but rather, just a way to show you what I have found.

State Aid: Gift Aid

On this site, I discovered that there were many gift aid options available.  Remember, gift aid is aid that does not have to be paid back.  We usually refer to this kind of aid as scholarships or grants.  For my state, there are a few options available, but they all carry some kind of restrictions.  There is aid available for veterans; aid available for senior citizens; aid available to those who will be attending an in-state college.  There are even some career specific offerings.  Some of these offerings are tied to individual need, and some are not.  If any of these state aid offerings apply to you, make a note and read the specifics.  Make sure you make note of any deadlines for filing.  When it comes to receiving gift aid, there is always some work to be done, but receiving the aid will be well worth the effort.

State Aid: Self-help Aid.

I also found some self-help aid information on this site.  It appears that my state offers a really competitive loan option.  I need to make a mental note to investigate this further to see if it will be a good option once all other options have been exhausted.

I would not settle to just investigate one site from our search result, but what you will find is that after a few sites the information will all seem the same.  That’s because your state’s aid is the same no matter what site you view.  It is just packaged a little different.  By spending a little time searching, you could save a few thousand dollars in college costs.

Be sure to let us know in the comments section what you have found in you state aid search, or what other sites you may have found beneficial.

 

College Decision Day: Where will you attend?

You have researched colleges, visited campuses, applied and been accepted, evaluated your award letter, and now it’s time to make your final choice.  May 1st is the date that most colleges would like you decision and deposit, but you are free to make the decision earlier if you would like.  You have worked hard to get to this moment.  What will your college decision be?  Here are some final thoughts to consider as you make this most important decision.

College Decision Day: Show me the college
College Decision campus visit

By now you have probably visited the college at least once, but you may want to take a more leisurely visit before your final decision.  Take a stroll around the campus, have a picnic on the quad, take some time to experience the campus and college life.  Sometimes, when you go for a scheduled visit you are too busy with your itinerary to slow down and really experience what the normal routine may be.  Try to image what a normal day of college life might be for you at that particular college or university.  You can learn a lot by slowing down and observing.

College Decision Day: Show me the money

Whether you like it or not, college is a financial decision.  So take a moment to look through the financials.  You may even want to schedule a family discussion about college plans.  This is a great time to make a college spending plan.  There is also still time to apply for some scholarships.  You may want to check your employers, local service organization, an other community involvement agencies.  Do as much work as you can now to help your financial picture for your first year of college.

College Decision Day: Make the Decision

Once you are confident in your decision, you need to submit your deposit and any final paperwork necessary.  Most students show their decision by wearing a T-shirt proudly declaring their college decision.  It’s a time of celebration….a right of passage of sorts.  The high school years will soon be over, and a whole new door of opportunity awaits!

So celebrate your decision now, for classes will begin sooner than you think!