It’s hard to know what you want to do right out of high school.
Shoot, it’s hard to know what you want to major in even if you go back to school at thirty.
You may think you have it all figured out, but then you get three years into the program and realize you hate the field. And you’ve spent how many tens of thousands of dollars on tuition?
Before you start your course of study, here are some options to consider when exploring your major and potential career path.
Enter as a General Studies Major
Entering as a general studies major allows you to explore a world of courses without being tied down to one. You can get your general education credits that will apply to most majors without having pressure from your advisor to immediately start on your major requirements or electives.
I know when I was entering college, I would have scoffed at the following piece of advice:
Seriously consider community college.
I thought I was too good for these “lesser” halls of scholarship when I was seventeen, but in the long term, community college was my saving grace. It’s affordable education that, if planned properly, can transfer to the institution of your choice.
Entering as a general studies major, or really any major, at a community college can save you thousands during your first two years.
Take Time Off
I rarely advocate putting off education. Many people start down this path with good intentions only to never return to get their degree. It’s a dangerous path to tread.
But out of everyone I’ve met that has taken a Gap Year and subsequently returned to college, not a single one regretted it.
One of my friends spent time discovering herself in Brazil.
I know someone who WWOOFed in New Zealand.
I’m close with several others who just spent time traveling. This time allowed them to examine themselves, their interests, and how they relate to the world around them, all of which can have major impacts on what you decide to study and how you want to work long-term.
Explore Your Interests
Take some time and make a list of things you like to do. You’d be surprised at how many different career paths there are and how you can make a living doing what you already know you love.
Passion in a career makes all the difference in your life and the impact you have at work, though that’s not to say you can always make money by pursuing you passion.
Once you have your list of interests, sit down with a guidance counselor or a career counselor. See what they can tell you about applicable majors, and what potential careers you could have once you earn your degree.
Have an interest that you’ve never explored before? Take a class in it. Whether it’s at your community college, your university, your community center, or even your library, taking a course can give you an idea of if you love the area enough to work in it for the rest of your life.
Talk to Someone in the Field Before Choosing Your Major
Send an email or give a call to someone who works in the field with prepared questions about what you they do everyday and how the future of the industry looks. You’d be surprised how many professionals respond when you seek out their expertise.
Take any opportunities you can to shadow. If you don’t like the job you originally had your eye on, see if they know about any peripheral career paths that may fit your skills or interests better.
This is also a great way to begin networking before you even graduate.
Remember: You Don’t Have to Do Four Years
There are fields that pay extremely well without a Bachelors degree. To learn more about them, check out your local vo-tech school, applying the same strategies as above.
These fields will require some type of training, and usually include an apprenticeship. Another synonymous term you may see pop up is “journeyman fields.” Sometimes the apprenticeship is paid, and sometimes it’s not, but at the end you’ll come out with a skill that–if you’ve vetted the profession properly before starting your program–can earn you a nice income.
Although statistically speaking, those with a four-year degree make more money over the course of their lifetimes than those without, the real key is to make sure you are a trained and skilled professional in a field that has good career prospects.
If you put meaningful effort into the training, whether it be at a four-year school or through a journeyman program, you’ll come out ready to earn.