There seems to be an accepted process to growing up for America’s youth. Go to college, get a job, build a family, then buy a house.
Problem: the unemployment rate has been stuck at 5.5 percent for the past few months. As of 2013, 26 of every 1,000 girls aged 15 to 19 were giving birth. A majority of millennials aren’t quite ready for homeownership yet, and the most prevalent stress right now is that seven out of 10 college graduates have student debt that averages $28k.
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When focusing on the issues of education and debt, here is a top 10 list of strategies to succeed in college, plus be more likely to avoid the pitfalls of unemployment and debt.
1. Don’t go to college if you have no idea what you want to do with your life.
This is a classic mistake because of the societal view that you must go to college after high school.
If you’re still a high school student, see if your school has any vocational or technical programs you can take so you can explore your passion. If you are graduating high school, have already graduated or are barely staying adrift in college – take a year off to explore your options. Maybe volunteer for the Peace Corps, City Year, or the military. Taking these paths can help you discover your niche, if you haven’t already.
2. Take an internship while in college.
If possible with your school schedule, do multiple internships. Create more opportunities to get your foot into a door, especially when you can gain professional relationships and earn credit for doing so.
3. Extracurricular activities are good, but don’t become an office-holding member if you’re short on time.
Being involved in college organizations can be a great way to make friends and discover what you want to do for a career. However, if you are working a part-time job and are involved in academics, especially internships, think twice about taking on a leadership role in a college organization. It may eat up more of your time than you can afford and your GPA could suffer. College sports, on the other hand, might be a different story as many students have scholarships through these programs, or they could be exploring a major in health or the physical fitness field.
4. Seek out your career services office at your college.
Many times, you may not even hear about your college’s career services until you start attending job fairs in your senior year, but they will have lots of resources for you and advice on how to transition into the job market.
5. Ask for one-on-one mentor sessions with professors who have worked in the field you are interested in.
Ask them their advice and their honest opinion of the careers. Ask them how they obtained their relevant jobs and how to make connections in those industries.
6. Live off-campus.
Many times, your college will require you to live on campus for the first year or two, but living off campus will teach you valuable lessons about paying rent, balancing your social life with work, and commuting that you can use later in life.
7. Take morning classes, whenever possible.
This will prepare you for the 9 to 5 world and give you more motivation to get on a normal work schedule.
8. Opt for schools that give a lot of merit scholarships or state schools with good academics and lower tuitions.
Pretty much self-explanatory – avoid as much debt as possible without skimping on education quality.
9. Be healthy.
Wash your clothes and keep up with hygiene. Sounds silly, but those two habits will help you stay healthier. Also, don’t fall prey to the freshman 15—eat well and if you are staying up late to study, avoid sodas and fatty foods. Drink lots of water, eat healthy snacks like nuts and fruit, and hit the treadmill for a few minutes. Also, save partying for the weekends, and only after you are done with your homework.
10. If you have mastered this list and you’re still not having luck finding a job after graduating, you DO have other options.
Your state government has career centers set up for many counties, and sometimes, in every town, depending on the population. Seek these resources out—they have many free services that will be beneficial for you. They will even try to help you get state money to go back to school if you need to supplement your educational experience as times and technology change.