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The cost of a college education is of great concern to students, parents, and society. Tuition at private college is nothing short of astronomical, escalating virtually every year at a rate above general inflation and earnings. The expense of public colleges is not inconsequential either. With so much investment it becomes critical that students receive value. While some measure that value in intellectual and personal growth, both of which are certainly important, I believe most students are equally or predominantly seeking a college education for the purpose of obtaining a degree or credentials, which will qualify them for a good career.

If that is the case, college decisions—which college to attend, what to major in, what extracurricular activities to join, what internship experiences to pursue—should all be given careful consideration as far in advance as possible. Students who casually select colleges based on location, prestige, size of institution, or other non-academic factors, can ultimately find themselves in an institution that was not the perfect match in terms of course of study. At that point it is often too late to transfer and a degree in a field which was not the best choice will be completed. The result of this common scenario may be a life-long compromise in job satisfaction or a return to higher education to get another more suitable degree.

The good news, however, is that situations like the above can usually be entirely avoided when students plan in advance. Selecting a course of study with a related career in mind is a great first step. Upon doing that, students can then search for colleges that have strong academic departments in that major.

When I work with juniors or seniors in high school, we focus on discussing careers and identifying courses of study that are most viable based on their long-term interests, academic aptitudes, and realities of the external job market. We may also be preparing the college essay or other parts of the college application and producing an effective résumé.

With college students, we are working on any or all of the following: career choice, selecting a college major, planning for internships, writing an attention-getting résumé, and practicing for interviews.

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