Both early and seasoned professionals attend school for various reasons—personal development, intellectual curiosity, and even boredom. But with student loan debt on the rise, online degree ads perpetually displayed on TVs, social media, and billboards, and zero guarantee that another degree will give you an ROI, it's important to ask yourself these three questions before you jump on an educational bandwagon.
1. Will This Degree Land Me A Job?
Unless you're fortunate enough to embark on a higher education journey for the pure sake of learning, most people attend school to qualify for a job. So, consider the following:
- What job do you want?
- Can you make a list of positions that interest you?
- How can you start making a list?
Step 1: Write the exact titles of the positions you're aiming for, i.e. communication professional, biomedical engineer, art director.
Step 2: Research these positions on Glassdoor, Indeed, and/or LinkedIn and takes notes on:
- What is the average salary for these positions and will it be enough to cover your student loan repayment plan post-graduation? (Remember, most borrowers only provide a 6-month to 1-year grace period.)
- What specific degree is listed in these job postings that are REQUIRED to get that particular job?
- What's the role like, i.e. what type of skills and responsibilities will it entail?
But, wait! What if you're not earning this degree to get a job? Well, then, ask yourself: Why are you choosing this degree?
- Family pressure?
- Societal pressure?
- You don't know what else to do with your life?
- You want to get out of your current living situation?
Get clear on your motivation behind wanting to attend school now! It will help you create the right career plan for you.
2. Am I Undecided?
Some professionals opt for one year of being undecided in their college path, just to hone in on what sparks their interest. That's one year of tuition, and one additional year of debt.
Note: This is only true for some students. A lot of colleges give you until your 2nd semester sophomore year to declare your major (you can get all your Gen Eds done and still be on track to graduate on time).
Still, there are ALTERNATIVE ways to gain insight into the right career path for you:
- Rank your top 3 career fields that interest you and spark joy and passion.
- Search for volunteering or internship opportunities in these fields, so you can gain hands-on experience in that role and familiarize yourself with its expected daily tasks and duties.
3. What Type Of College Or University Will I Attend & What Are The Benefits?
It's not uncommon for professionals to choose one university over another because of how impressive it sounds (and looks) on paper—think Johns Hopkins versus Pitt Community College.
But is a degree from an Ivy league or prestigious school worth the cost?
According to a former college coach who read Yale applications, Dr. Kat Cohen, it's better to look at the bigger picture. She suggests taking into account your unique academic goals, financial considerations, and social preferences. Specifics to consider:
- Out-of-state, in-state, private, or public? Online versus in-person?
- Cost of tuition, supplies, and transportation.
- Debt and/or scholarship and grant availability.
- Degree track provided and how it will prepare you for the job post-graduation.
We hope getting clear on these questions will help you excel in whatever career path you choose!
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