Putting the cart before the horse is what nearly every parent does when planning for college. They pick out colleges with absolutely no clue what the student's career path is, and by extension, what college major ought to be selected that fits that career path.
I suspect they don't even know it can be done. I do it all the time with my new students. Which begs the question....
What is the biggest mistake parents and students make when they start planning for college? And why does guessing and hoping characterize the process?
My answer starts with a metaphor: Parents intend on taking a trip very soon, but they don’t know what the destination is, what will determine the destination, how they are going to arrive, nor what it's going to cost. All they know is they need to take the trip, it's got to be soon, and it's going to be expensive.
No destination, no map, and a vague idea of what needs to be done.
In a word, people have the process all backward. Obviously, you have to start with a destination, then a map, and the money it takes to make the trip.
In planning for college, you have to start with the student’s destination, that is, a career possibility. How do you determine a career for a 16-year-old? It’s not hard. Oops! My credibility just took a dive, so you think. Keep reading.
Major corporations use personality testing to discover if a candidate for a job position has the emotional equipment that’s required by the position they want to fill. They can be looking at a perfect resume, but the testing reveals someone unsuitable for the job.
I use these same tests - not the abysmal free ones on the internet - to determine what occupations best fit the temperament and personality of the student.
Once the student sees what really appeals to them, it becomes a “fit,” an occupation that makes real sense to the student. When this discovery is made, the stress levels on the family go w-a-y down. And oftentimes, it's even exciting.
What I am doing with a 16- or 17-year-old is providing the direction, not always the destination because the student may feel there are several occupations s/he would like in following the direction. The direction is what opens up a lot of possibilities that make sense to the student.
Then the map is determined by one or two college majors that direct the student toward those career possibilities, most of which will have a lot in common. For example, the direction may be in the financial area, but the student has to research careers like business finance, marketing, accounting, and the like. Once the direction (related occupations) is determined, we now have a map (college major) to get going.
This discovery is largely responsible for reducing all the stress of college planning significantly. High school guidance counselors do not do any of this. It's not their job. But it’s part of what I do, and it’s foundational to everything I do with my students.
Without this foundation, college planning for parents is reduced to two activities: guessing and hoping.
Guessing takes several forms, such as parents, teachers, and friends telling your child that her terrific talent will get her into a vaguely-defined "great" college, or visiting a college and thinking, "This place gives great vibes."
But where's the "fit?"
Families will guess that they are doing the right thing and hoping their guesses will pan out.
What are the consequences?
With a national average of 70% of college students (61% private colleges, 80% public colleges) taking 5 and 6 years to graduate, it’s evidence that the foundation was never there at the beginning of the process, and guessing and hoping produced a very expensive and frustrating result.
To prevent this from happening to you, please feel free to call me for a chat and we'll discuss your concerns. As usual, no obligation: 1-508-520-6642.