Choosing a Program Based on Your Goals

When I left for college I had no idea how to evaluate a school or a degree program. I based my decisions on what other people thought I should do and what was easy instead of sitting down and asking myself some simple questions. I'd like to offer some questions I should have asked myself about my goals and the programs I was evaluating.

First, something everyone should answer before going to school: Why are you going to school and what do you hope to achieve? Even if you are undecided about your major or future career plans, you should know why you are going to school. Are you going to school merely for the sake of learning? Are you hoping to improve your skills for a current job? Are you going to school to prepare for the career you desire? What sort of degree do you need in order to accomplish your goal? Do you need a technical or professional certification? Do you need an associate's, bachelor's, or master's degree? If you are unsure, try researching the fields that interest you. The Occupational Outlook Guide on the Bureau of Labor Statistics website not only provides statistical data on job growth and pay rates, but detailed job descriptions and training requirements. Some fields such as automotive technicians and massage therapists may require a technical school education that focuses on hands-on training as opposed to the classic 4-year college education.

What are your interests and aptitudes? Are you good with numbers, working with your hands, words, animals or people? The Myers Briggs and the Keirsey Temperament Sorter are good resources on the web that can help you figure out what sort of careers you might be best suited for based on your personality type. (For example I am an INFJ, so I'm suited to careers dealing with counseling and writing.) How much time and money are you willing to invest? Are you willing to take out loans or work full time while you are in school? Have you applied for federal aid, grants and scholarships? It's as simple as filling out a FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) form.

Student loans are among the loans with the lowest interest rates and recent years have seen them the lowest they have ever been. When it comes to time, are you willing to sacrifice leisure time, family time or work time? Consider technical training as an alternative to the traditional 4-year college. Inventory the benefits and disadvantages of a career college versus the traditional college. Scheduling may be more flexible and programs may be shorter meaning you will be out in the workforce sooner. (watch out for my next article which will cover the differences between the two types of schools) Choosing a program is just as important if not moreso than choosing a school.

Some people choose a school first, allowing time to explore the options of that one school. Others may know exactly what they are looking for and will choose a school based on the programs offered. Hopefully, you will now be better prepared to make that important decision to benefit your mind and your future. For a complete list of links to websites mentioned in this article (and more) please visit my blog at http://exuberant-creation.blogspot.

com/2005/11/useful-links-for-c ollegebound.html .

By: Kate Leas


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