Saturday, February 16, 2019

Choosing the right college program for you

Okay, so you know that you want to attend either a college or a university. That’s great, but now what? Well, from here we must decide upon the kinds of courses you’d like to take once you get there.

Choosing some interesting subjects is an important first step in the process of deciding just what area of study you’d like to take up in college or university. Without thinking this one over carefully, you could find yourself in a course or program that you really don’t care for, and for obvious reasons you probably won’t do so well in.

To give yourself a better chance at selecting the right courses for yourself, there are a few things you should consider when it comes time to apply:
  • What are your likes?
  • What are your dislikes?
  • What were, or are, your favorite subjects in high school?
  • Were there ones you’d rather avoid?
  • What can you see yourself enjoying five years from now?
What are your likes?

So, you are stuck when it comes to deciding what kind of degree or other program you want to pursue, huh? Don’t worry about it. You certainly aren’t alone. This is a common challenge for many high school students, and even adults, trying to decide upon a new career.

Where should you look to for inspiration when it comes to what you might want to do in your future? Well, a good place to start is with your own hobbies, interests, and volunteer work. Think about something that you already do now. Something that you enjoy enough that you don’t even think about getting paid for it. Take a few moments out now and reflect on that.

Now, just imagine if you could do that same thing (or something very similar) and make a living at it. Wouldn’t that be perfect? You like cooking? Why not consider a path in the food service/hospitality/culinary arts arena? You like writing? Why not look into some courses in journalism and/or creative writing? What about helping people with their challenges? If you do, think about a career in social work.

Obviously, the choices are going to be very different for everyone. The most important thing to remember is that if you like it, and you like it enough to be doing it already, or you’ve always had a passion for it and wanted to do it in the future, that could be a good subject to look into for yourself.

What are your dislikes?

So, you haven’t been able to narrow down your choices enough just yet? That’s okay. We’ll just take a different approach to the subject and see what comes of it.

This time, instead of things you enjoy doing already, I now want you to think of things that you can’t stand. This way, you’ll know what kind of career paths you might rather avoid.

Now, if it’s the thing you dislike that is keeping you away from the subject you were thinking about enrolling in, is there a way that you can change the circumstances slightly, so that you can still do what you enjoy without doing the part that you’d dislike?

For instance, let’s say you really enjoy helping people learn new things, but you're not a fan of having to go to the front of the class where you are the center of attention. So, becoming a teacher is probably not for you, but how about something with fewer people? What about becoming a tutor or trainer? Now all you have to do is decide what subjects you’d like to help people in. Those subjects would then fall into a specific course or courses that you could apply for in college or university.

Again, everyone’s opinion as to what they like and dislike is going to be very different, so you are going to have to sit down for a while and really think about it before you come up with some answers.

What are (were) your favorite subjects in high school?

If you’re still stuck as to which courses to apply for in college or university, that’s certainly okay. I’m not giving up on you yet. I know you can do it! How about this - do you have any of your old report cards still kicking around somewhere? Better yet, can you remember how you did on them? I’m hoping you were able to answer, "Yes!" to at least one of those questions, because otherwise this next reflection exercise might not help you out too much.

Anyway, which subjects did you excel in? Could you be a history genius in the making? You never know, you could be. If you are enjoying (or did enjoy) it in high school, and didn’t do half-badly at it, perhaps a BA in History has your name written all over it. What about math, or auto shop, or computers? What was your "thing"? Chances are they have something along the same lines in college or university that will pique your interest.

What are the subjects you’d rather avoid?

Another approach to think about would be figuring out what you want to do, what you think you can do, and what you think you can’t do. Knowing the subjects that you just aren’t good at, or you would just rather avoid for whatever reason, is just as important as the ones that you do like and want to pursue. That way, if you have too many possibilities, utilizing this strategy can help to narrow down the list a little more.

Tip - If you are still stuck, a good place to look is to a college’s or university’s course calendar - many of these can be found online. Just search for institutions in your area and take a look at what they are offering. You can usually also find lists of all the courses offered and often the subjects that are required as prerequisites, if any.

What can you see yourself enjoying five years from now?

So, with all the choices you have before you - the old ones you thought up on your own, and the new ones you read about in either a course calendar or online at a college's or university's Web site, you may be wondering about some ways to narrow them down.

If that is the case, ask yourself this question - Can you see yourself in five years still liking the career path you’ve chosen? How about in ten years?

It’s certainly not the end of the world if you choose the wrong course/program for you your first time around. Many people do it. The only problem with that is tuition can be expensive, so making the best decision early on is always the ideal route to take, if possible. So if you really can't see yourself in a certain career five or ten years down the road, you might as well scratch it off the list now, instead of paying out thousands of dollars to decide halfway through the school term that the path really isn’t right for you.

You also have to take into account that the schooling itself for certain career paths runs the gamut when it comes to time frames to completion. While some degrees and programs may take as little as a year, other professions (for instance, law or medicine) can take quite a few years. So, if you really aren’t in it for the long haul, then perhaps it’s also best to think about other options.

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