How to Choose Your College Program: Four Hard, Honest Rules
While every student is going to have a different experience, I found myself choosing my college program in my high school careers class. In hindsight, it was far too early and sudden, and I would have liked time to give it critical thought. Here are a few tips you should keep in mind while considering a major. A word of warning, though: Some of these tips are a bit hard to take, and even if you’ve got your heart set on a particular career path, they may make you want to re-analyze.
It’s okay to experiment and even make mistakes when it comes to finding your path in life, though. No one gets it right the first time, and an ever-changing world means that things that were once secure can change, and long shots can become sure things. These rules aren’t locked in stone, but are rather ideas you can use to start down a better path. College is about finding you meaningful work, and Centennial College’s mission is to open a path to employment, so by opting to go there, you’ve already made one solid choice. So, here’s what you should be looking for in a college program:
1) It uses a skill you already have
When picking your program, you have to first look at yourself, and figure out your academic talents. What are you best at in school? Are you good at writing essays? Math? The sciences? Music? And outside of school, what skills can you do? Are you good at fixing computers? Cooking?
Even if it’s not obvious, search for your natural talents. Everyone has them, and if you can’t find yours, you simply need to dig deeper. I’ve found that speaking to family or friends about it can be more effective than thinking about it alone, as they’ll observe things about you that you’ve never thought of, and point out what they’ve noticed you to be good at. If you’ve got your skills pinned down, there’s something much harder you’ll need to look at…
2) There are career prospects (and money) in it
It may seem cynical to advise a student to go where the money is, since it doesn’t buy happiness. But what it does buy is peace of mind, stability, and security. What this means for you is if you have your heart set on something, have a look at the field and figure out if it’s shrinking, growing, or undergoing some sort of change, and have an honest look at what the job prospects are. If it’s a field that’s hard to get into, or one that’s diminishing, you may have to let your own financial and career needs override your desire to enter it. The fact of the matter is that you need a roof over your head, food on the table, and a reasonable expectation of financial security. If what you want to do won’t net you enough money to supply that, it may be worth rethinking your plans.
Of course, it can be difficult to predict what will have an expanding job market in a few years, and similarly tough to figure out what has a good job market now. I’ll get you started: Here’s Mic's list of the most profitable college majors in America. While it’s a different country, it’s close enough to have relevance here in Canada. If any of those intersect with your skills and talents, look into pursuing them. There is room for more than practical financial need in your choice, though…
3) It’s something you like doing
While your career prospects are important, it’s similarly unwise to pick a career you hate because it pays well. Personal stability is just as important as financial stability. Similarly, liking something and being good at it don’t have to be mutually exclusive things. There’s a practical side to picking something you enjoy, too: Doing what you like results in you being better at it. If you can get out of bed every day and look forward to your job, you’ll be a better employee, advance up the career ladder faster, and earn more financial stability.
4) You’re reasonably sure it’s what you want, and aren’t rushing into it
Some of us may scoff at people that “take a year off to find themselves,” but there are legitimate reasons behind making that choice. It’s better to take the time to research and analyze both the job market and yourself to figure out both what you can and should do, and to be more certain of your chosen career. I say more certain, because it’s okay not to be sure.
If you need to take time to figure out what you want to do, it’s better to do that than spend the time and capital to go to college for something that isn’t for you. It isn’t a race to complete your education in your early 20’s, and the modern college student comes from any age and background. Similarly, if you’re already in college and having second thoughts, it’s better to take the time to change tracks to something you feel more secure about
By Anthony Geremia