My Child’s Journey to Find His Ideal College

Laurie shares her journey in helping her kids find their ideal college.

I am a mom of two boys, Donnie and Thomas. Donnie is a sophomore in high school. Thomas is in 6th grade. I am walking down the same path as many parents of high schoolers in helping Donnie find his ideal college. I thought I would share with you my journey.

I have the same hopes and dreams for my kids as you do. We want our children to succeed. We want to feel relieved, assured and confident about our child’s future. We envision a life for them where they are pursuing a college education for a career they will truly enjoy.

How do we start them on the path of finding their career? It starts at a young age. Like many parents, my husband and I would get Donnie involved in different activities to help him explore his interests and see what would stick.

I love to do crafty things but Donnie was not interested and never has been. We tried soccer for a couple of years but that wasn’t his thing. Then we started him in Tae Kwon Do. This was an activity that did stick. Yes, there were quite a few times when he resisted in going to class. However, more times than not he was happy he attended, even when we had to “force” him to go. After a few years of dedication and many class hours, he achieved his black belt. Fun fact, I started taking Tae Kwon Do classes a couple years after Donnie. I wanted exercise and decided to participate versus just watching. If it weren’t for Donnie, I would have quit after the first class. I found learning the patterns frustrating. Now I have my black belt.

We also got Donnie involved in scouting. My husband was a scout growing up. He enjoyed what he learned and the friendships he gained. Scouting was an activity that Donnie enjoyed too. Donnie’s favorite part of scouting is the camping. I have enjoyed watching Donnie’s leadership skills that he continues to develop throughout the ranks. In watching him with the younger scouts, I thought he might like to pursue a career in teaching. Donnie has a great amount of patience with kids and has an incredible ability to explain things to them in a way they understand.

Donnie has also developed an interest in cooking. This has come in handy and is quite tasty. We have delegated many dinners for him to prepare. I started wondering if he would like to become a chef. He also asks for cameras as presents. Maybe he would become a photographer.

He likes band and has played the trombone since 6th grade. He even joined the marching band in high school. I started to wonder if Donnie would be interested in a career that involved music.

Last semester, Donnie was in a writing class. He struggled all semester in this class because he hates writing. He hates writing like I hated math in school. Then, the writing teacher assigned a final project. The students had to create a video for a story that was also turned into a movie. They had to write about the differences and similarities between the book and the movie. Donnie chose the Hunt for Red October by Tom Clancy. I share this with you because I was amazed at the level of dedication Donnie had on this project. I had never seen him take so much interest in a homework assignment. He literally sat for hours and hours working on this project without any pushing from me to get it done. What was it about this project? The topic? Making a film? Is there something there that could turn into a career for him?

When you ask Donnie what he wants to do he says he wants to go to Kennesaw State for college and major in Computer Science like his dad. Although he has no idea what he wants to do with computers as a career. There are thousands of different jobs that he could get into that involve computers – sales, analytics, testing, web developer, IT security, video game developer.

After years of different experiences, I could see Donnie as a teacher, chef, photographer, maybe something in music, or something with computers.

How do you pick the right college and career with such a wide range of interests? Even if we just focus on computers there are so many different jobs. The job he would truly enjoy may not require a computer science degree.

The good news is Donnie has a mom who provides an assessment that can narrow this decision down for him. I had Donnie take the assessment. In next week’s blog, I will share the results. Did the assessment pick one of the potential jobs I saw for him, or did it come up with careers I wouldn’t have considered?

What careers do you see your kids’ having potential in and why? Tell us in the comments.

Changing College Majors Can Be Costly

Tips for Avoiding the Costly Effects of Changing College Majors

John is currently in his third year as an English college major. He thought he wanted to be a college English professor but says now that he’dlike to “do English” as a hobby but not a career. Often, peoplewho “like reading and writing” become English college majors only to find outit’s not what they thought it would be.

Costly effects of changing college majors

Science classes were always Connor’s favorite in high school. He loved being outdoors at the beach, rivers, and lakes. He was fascinated with fish and fishing. Although the parents didn’t know much about that field, they trusted that Connor had a career path in mind. It wasn’t until after he graduated that he realized that all the interesting fisheries jobs that paid well required a Masters or Ph.D. While Connor loved fisheries, he wasn’t willing to go back to school. After taking a career assessment and getting coaching he is thriving in Hospitality Management and he goes out fishing as often as he can.

There are thousands of stories of kids realizing they made the wrong choice for their college major. They picked their major based on a particular career. I was one of those kids, too. I went to school thinking I was going to be a marine biologist because I loved the water. You can hear more of my story here.

The U.S. Department of Education reported last year that about 1 in every 10 students change their major more than once. (see report)

While changing majors is not a new concept, it can be a costly one. The average costs for college can be up to $20,000 a year. Multiply that by at least four years, then you have a total cost of $80,000. If your child changes majors, then you are likely looking at them spending more than four years in college. Research shows that the average length has gone from four to six years. If they go six years, you are looking at a cost of $120,000. I’m not a math whizz, but I know that’s enough money to buy a vacation home or travel through Europe a few times! College, no doubt, is a huge financial investment.

Many students, like Connor, graduate in a field that they never get a job in because they realize it’s not what they want to do.  That’s not getting the most bang for your college bucks. The purpose of going to college is to get the education you need for your career, not your hobby.

So how can you avoid the costly mistake of your child picking college majors that end up being more of a hobby versus a career? Here are some tips:

Tip 1: Have your child talk to people currently working in the field they are interested in. This is a great opportunity for your child to find out what it’s really like to work in that field. They can find out the schooling they will need, what a typical day is like, tasks that are part of the job that they may not like so much.

Tip 2: Find out what courses are required to achieve a degree in that major. If I had done that, I would have realized much sooner that I didn’t want to be a marine biologist. My loathing for math was much bigger than my love of the water.

Tip 3: Enroll your child in a camp closely related to the field they are interested in. If your child is interested in being a video game developer, there are many camps where they can do this. This can help them decide if they really like doing it or maybe it should be a hobby, not a career.

Tip 4: Have your child take a career assessment. This is very beneficial for kids who have no idea what they want to do or if you want to make sure your child is picking a career versus a hobby. It’s a fast-track way to identify careers they will enjoy.  There are many different career assessments. You want to make sure they take one that is linked to data based on actual jobs.  Contact me at laurie@myidealcollege.org if you want to learn more about using a career assessment to help your child.

Remember, just because your child loves doing something doesn’t mean it’s a career and should be their college major. Take the steps to make sure you are helping your child plan for their future and keeping hard-earned money in your bank account.

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