Discover The Hidden College Cost Most Students and Parents Learn About Too Late
Whether you are a student or a parent of a student, you know how expensive college can be. Tuition, books, living expenses, transportation.... the list goes on. But one of the few costs that most overlook is the "extra time" cost. What do I mean about extra time? When a student has to take an extra semester, or an extra year, or extra 2-3 years because of delay. For some, that can just mean failing a class or two and having to take those classes over.
But usually the biggest reason for extra time in college is major swapping. This can turn a 4 year college stay into a 5 or 6 year stay. So many students get to their sophomore, junior, or even their senior years and suddenly realize that they want to do something else. They get to those upper level classes and start to get exposed to the job possibilities and start to say, "This isn't quite what I was expecting."
They then have a decision to make: stick with it and chance being unsatisfied in their careers or go back, pick something else, and devote another semester, or two, or three to getting caught up in the requirements for their new major. They then end up staying in college for an extra six months, or year, or even two years taking the extra classes that were required to make the switch.
A great article by Penn State has suggested that universities not allow students to decide until their second year of college. It stated that "an estimated 20 to 50 percent of students enter college as “undecided” (Gordon, 1995) and an estimated 75 percent of students change their major at least once before graduation (Gordon, 1995)."
But how can you know if your child is going to experience this kind of indecision during their college career? Start by simply asking them if they have some sort of idea of what the jobs or careers are like should they complete their selected degree program. Now, for some people this seems like jumping ahead too much but in this case, we have realized that the people who have a good idea of what the industry is like before choosing a major are the ones who stick with it until graduation.
Another article by borderzine.com, stated that "About 80 percent of students in the United States end up changing their major at least once, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. On average, college students change their major at least three times over the course of their college career."
Changes like this can result in thousands or even tens of thousands of dollars added to the overall cost of college. And when you stop to think about it, it's hard to make a decision like this without changing your mind. Our experience is the single biggest influence in our decision making abilities. So how can we expect people to make such a big choice about their career without going through the experience of that career?
Yes, there are co-op and internship programs which do give a student the ability to really see what a certain job is like but these can be hard to get for students that don't have a good GPA. Not to mention, these programs typically aren't available until a student's junior or senior year when they have already completed most of their requirements.
This is why we encourage parents to get their child exposed to different jobs before making the decision on college. Talk to the career center or counselor at their school and see if their school offers job shadowing or internship programs. Have your son or daughter try as many careers as they are interested in.
If their program isn't very good or if your child in unable to shadow multiple jobs, consider finding people currently working within those fields and do an interview with them. Ask them what they spend most of their time doing, what advice they would give to their younger selves, if the education they got was really necessary, what kind of things do they do at work on a daily basis. The better the questions, the better the info!
A third option would be to make a free Career Conversations account. Browse the job documentaries which are in depth, detailed accounts of real world individuals in specific careers that share the what the daily grind is like in their work along with a ton of applicable advice that they would suggest to anyone interested in that kind of career.