So you’re almost ready for college – right? Are you still trying to decide on a major? If you don’t know what to major in yet, how can you be certain the money you invest in your education is well spent?
Find Yourself With a Gap Year
A gap year is a semester or a year of experiential learning, typically taken after high school and before starting college or a career. This idea is growing in popularity as more students take this intentional time to learn independent living skills, develop their interests, or experience a new culture.
Why take a gap year? Instead of spending time and money in college while you’re still undecided, you can find out what you’re good at and what work you’d like to pursue while spending a whole lot less (or even earning money.) Gap year students gain skills and experiences that look good on a college application and can help them get more out of their education.
Be OK With Not Knowing What Comes Next
College is a big investment that should not be decided impulsively. The belief that you need to have this all figured out by the time you leave high school can be a source of great stress, which can lead to poorly thought out decisions.
It’s not necessary to know your major when you enter college. However, it isn’t wise to pay expensive tuition or to acquire debt for a path you don’t feel certain about. If you want to explore a particular area of study while you decide on a major, there are lower-cost options such as auditing classes online for free, or taking prerequisite courses in your field at a community college or a state college where tuition is generally lower.
Consider Your Options
While considering a college major, take a realistic look at the time and money you can expect to spend in college before graduating and starting a career. What level of degree will you need to get the type of job you desire? Will you need to complete internships, a residency, or board exams? Is it expected, if not required, for you to get your masters degree? How much can you anticipate being paid, at entry level? These are important considerations that can help you develop a solid plan to avoid leaving college with unpayable debt.
When you understand the investment you will need to pursue your chosen path, you are better positioned to find support, such as scholarships and grants. If you do choose to take on a college loan, you will do so with a realistic plan for how and when you will pay it back.
Be Aware of Your Priorities
Not everyone leaving high school has a clear vision for where they will be in five years. Are you more interested in meeting people and exploring life as a young adult than you are in your studies? If you’re honest about that, you can avoid spending all your money on one priority and all your time on another.
Finally, be aware that your priorities may change by the time you leave college. If you imagine a home, a family, travel, or hobbies in your future, consider how these priorities may affect your financial and career choices. Above all, college is an investment in who you are and who you’d like to become. Invest wisely, and enjoy this time.
BIO: Brett Clawson has a degree in Business Management and has started a couple of small businesses. When he’s not focusing his time on those, he spends time with his wife and two sons. His oldest son has entered the wonderful realm of college, and he now enjoys sharing tips that he and his son have found essential for college life.