How to Take Full Advantage of Your College Education

It has been more than a decade since a steady number of around 20 million students have been enrolling in colleges across the United States each year. According to the Education Data Initiative, 40% of these students drop out of college. That’s roughly around 8 million students every year, of which, a whopping 30% fail to even reach their sophomore year let alone receive their degree.

We opened this article with these statistics not to paint a dire picture of your future as a student, but rather as a much-needed reality check to get you into the right mindset so you can improve your odds of long-term success while you enjoy your newfound independence and undertake its subsequent responsibilities.

The higher education system is far from perfect, but it is generally a good investment that can serve as a launchpad for those who have a plan for the path they are going to tread in the future. If you are reading this, chances are that you are cognizant of that fact, which is a fantastic start in and of itself.

A Means to an End

One of the mistakes that are prevalent among students is that they attend college without having made decisions about their majors or future careers. You might think that your goal is to go to college, graduate, get a job, and move from there but that is too broad to be a goal. College by itself is not and should not be your goal. Rather, it is a vessel that should help you move towards your desired outcome. From community colleges to more prestigious ones and everything in between, there are all types of colleges you can merely attend and graduate from.

The ultimate question that you should have a clear answer for even before applying is what is it that you want to accomplish that makes college worth its price of admission? What is the logical next step that you need to take after it? With no clear picture in mind, you are just doing what you think you are supposed to do which is not good enough.

Academic Advisors Are Invaluable

Even if you are goal-driven with your studies, you are still in need of good advice because you may lack the knowledge as to what courses in your academic path will fulfill your degree requirements and you may end up staying in college longer than is necessary. An advisor can tremendously help you set realistic academic objectives, progress successfully towards your graduation, and finish your degree on time.

A mistake that many students make is that they view their mandatory meeting with their advisors as an inconvenience rather than an opportunity. Determining your area of focus and how best to set up your coursework in order to gain the most work experience as well as academic knowledge along with getting a good understanding of your career and academic needs are some of the benefits this opportunity can provide.

Budgeting and Financial Literacy

As alien of an idea as it may sound, an isolated success within the confines of a college education won’t get you far. You need to develop other essential skills concurrently with your college studies to be able to put the puzzle pieces together. Things that usually are not covered in the American education system. As you gradually get comfortable with navigating through life as an adult, it is crucial that you work on your financial competence.

Just because you’re earning little or nothing at all at the moment, it doesn’t mean that you should not have a financial plan. This plan could be managing your small pocket money or earnings from your part-time job and budgeting your college and day-to-day expenses as a student. This is also a very good way to practice and get into the habit of managing your finances for when you graduate and get a full-time job. Not everyone can qualify for financial aid such as scholarships and grants so make sure you understand the details of the best private student loans and map out how you are going to repay them in the long run.

Career Counselors

While academic advisors provide you with guidance on how you should align your academic activities with your lifelong career goals, career counselors help you develop, evaluate, and pursue those goals in a way that is in line with your personal traits, values, capabilities, and interests.

Career counselors do this with a variety of standardized tools, strength assessments, and aptitude tests such as the Strong Interest Inventory and Self-Directed Search. They also utilize questionnaires, personality tests, and interviews to develop an understanding of who you are and your capabilities and self-identified skills to explore possible career opportunities based on their insights and experience.

Even if you have a generally good idea of your strengths, weaknesses, skills, and passions, a career counselor can help you with the other side of the coin which is understanding the job market simply because your capabilities don’t mean much if the demand for them is in decline. Staying on top of the trends in the market and the ability to reconcile your intrinsic qualities with the things that are in demand, is central to the success of your career life.