A college degree is not an automatic ticket to a career. Students don’t choose a major, take some classes, write a few papers and — poof! — they’re looking at a six-figure job offer upon graduation. And this fact has a lot of people (including concerned parents) talking, mostly about college grads who are jobless and living in their parents’ basements.
Some people are questioning the value of a college education. The truth is, a college education is 100% worth it. Students just need to understand how to leverage these four magical years into a promising career or grad school admit.
Welcome to College to Career 101! Here are five things your student should do during college to prepare for what comes next.
Some students arrive on campus knowing what they want to do and some don’t. Others change direction when they get there. College is an opportunity for students to figure out who they are and what they love. They need to find those intriguing classes — even if they don’t seem “practical” or relate to an intended major— and take them. Exploration exposes students to new subjects and ways of thinking. Best case: they discover a passion that leads to a potential career. Worst case: they’ve broadened their minds a bit.
College campuses teem with student groups and activities. There’s something for everyone and your student should jump right in. Just like high school, it’s not the number of activities but the level of involvement that matters. Whether student government, Greek life, a cultural or service organization, campus politics or sports, they can get involved, have an impact and, when they’re ready, take on a leadership role.
Campus involvement leads to a happier overall college experience, boosts academic success and contributes to a stronger resumé. BONUS! Activities also give them more awesome people with whom to…
While students are making friends and having fun, it’s important they think ahead and make connections, too. With fellow students, TAs, professors, everyone. They should get to know people and make sure people know them. It will come in handy in ways they can’t even imagine now, which is why most students don’t think to do this on their own and may need a push from you. The college network may be the most valuable thing they leave with at graduation.
Get to know — and stay in touch with — professors.
Encourage your student to talk to professors after class and go to office hours. Does a professor have research your student can assist with? This is terrific experience, especially if the subject relates to their career goals. Through their own networks, professors may be able to help with job placement. They will also be able to write stronger graduate school letters of recommendation if they have developed a mentoring relationship with your student.
Do an internship.
Whether during the semester or over the summer, internships are important for many reasons — here are the three biggies.
- Students get real-life experience in a field.
- This looks great on their resumé because it is experience not window dressing.
- Internships give students a chance to see if they like a field. Speaking as someone who tried three careers before finding the one that truly fit, I wish I had dabbled when the stakes were lower.
College campuses offer many more career prep resources: speaker series, career counseling, on-campus recruiting, mock interviews, etc. The list is almost endless — it’s up to your student (with you cheering them on) to take advantage of the opportunities.