Plan Well to Avoid the High Cost of Attendance

OK, you’re going to college. What for? And if you don’t know the answer to that question, the next question is this: For how long? Well, with the high cost of attendance (COA) today, you had better be able to answer that first question with some reasonable amount of certainty—at least within the first few years of a potential degree.

One change in who you are, what are your interests or strengths, and your four year degree possibly just fell suspect to becoming a five or six year venture. Did the college offering you a renewable scholarship remember to tell you that the award only lasts for four years?

Has anyone mentioned that it would be very difficult to get another school to accept 110 credits if you decide you can’t afford to pay full sticker price for year five or six anymore to finish a degree that found you changing majors 5-6 times? Factor in a year or two of the income potential lost if a four year program morphs into a five or six year program, and your COA just skyrocketed.

Yes, the college handbook will tell you what a particular college may offer. They will not tell you what YOU want out of your education, career or life. That’s the inexpensive curriculum you must employ yourself to script. Asking yourself simple questions is not hard. Committing to any answers with any degree of finality may be difficult for an 18 year old young person however.

My first degree was actually in construction. I used to log data as I watched road builders pave roads they contracted to build for the USFS. It was interesting to watch them convert soft patches of dirt into hard packed road surfaces. It took lots of tools, time and effort. In that same way I used to teach students they had to PAIV the way to their own future. To PAIV these private roadways, they needed to know their work Preferences, Abilities, Interests and Values.

Preferences may seem insignificant to some, but if you find you really feel suffocated in an office cubicle and that’s your work environment for 8 or more hours every day for the duration of your career, those 8 hours can feel like a week, and your plan to stay for 25 years with the same employer with aspirations of a gold watch awaiting at your retirement party may seem like a life sentence at San Quentin on the wrong side of the bars separating inmates from employees.  The Myers Briggs and other similar tests can give you a better sense of personality traits that may hold the key to knowing the work environment in which you’d most likely thrive.

The students in our Medical Terminology Class are some of the focused graduates at our high school. They actually spend an entire semester job shadowing people in the medical positions they think fit them best. Those students emerge from those experiences with much clearer insights into which setting and position seem to be the best fit. One semester of watching the daily duties typical of a career under the direction of a mentor has the capacity to save someone the pain of spending four-eight years of college while amassing a mountain of debt only to find they don’t like the careers awaiting graduates of the program studied.

Abilities are those things at which you excel. I have always loved to play professional baseball. Had the Chicago Cubs taken a chance on me, their wait for a Championship would sadly look even more daunting than now appears. They are better off with my assistance while cheering from the Grand Stands. Likewise, while I enjoy fishing, the Most Dangerous Catch would not catch fish fast enough to even cover fuel costs let alone crew wages with my instincts as to where the fish are all schooling. Aptitude Tests like the ASVAB, Ohio, and many others can help one generalize to those areas at which you are good or find strengths you never knew you had hiding within you.

Interests change with time. Some who used to enjoy cooking may be satisfied to enjoy good food from the dining room later in life. Athletic favorites may become more sedentary over time. Finding those passions that will linger for at least a reasonable length of time can be a challenge, but one worth the pursuit. Sometimes a new interest will lead to the discovery of strengths you never knew you had. Many interest surveys are out there.

Robert McClory

2010 Finalist for School Counselor of the Year (American School Counselor Association)

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