The Princeton Review’s annual survey of “Hopes and Worries” among college applicants and parents for 2015 found that…(to read more)
- 90% viewed financial aid as “very” necessary to pay for college
- 66% said it was “extremely” necessary
- 45% saw a “better job as the main benefit of a college education, and
- Other surveys report that over 90% of parents with kids age 17 or younger plan to send their child to college because it is necessary to get ahead in life
College is expensive and more important than ever. Students cannot afford to graduate and not be able to find well-paying professional employment. Yet, according to the Department of Labor, nearly 50% of all college graduates in America have jobs that do not require a college degree. And 55% of recent college graduates report being “under-employed.” Parents and students worry that a college degree no longer delivers what it once did.
Here is a list of seven things parents can do to ease their own anxiety and achieve more predictable career outcomes for their kids.
- Start the “Career” discussion with your child as early as possible—by their sophomore year at the latest. It’s not enough to ask, “What do you want to be or study?” Most do not know and if they do, a change of heart is very likely. Center the discussion on whether they want to attend college and why. This will begin a process by which preparation in college links to career choice. Even if your student is already in college, have the discussion anyway.
- Make sure your child understands their natural talents and give them positive feedback about their capabilities. Chances are you already know some of what they are good at. Still, solicit the help of the guidance department at your school or, if you have the funds, have them tested by a private professional. Kids that enter college with a sense of who they are; what they are good at; and why one profession vs. another makes sense tend to do better than those who wonder about aimlessly. Anything you can do to provide a sense of direction and an understanding of their talents could pay big dividends.
- Know why the “wrong” response to your child’s academic interest could threaten rather than help. Here is an example. When they tell you of their interest in being a history major, for example, avoid asking, “What kind of job can you get with a major in that?” The response will likely be taken as an accusation rather than a legitimate question. The accusation is that a particular major is a poor career choice.
Be supportive. Once your child is secure in knowing of your interest and can trust that you are behind them, you will be better able to become part of the search most students eventually get to—who is interested in hiring recent graduates with the kind of major they have?
- As soon as the opportunity presents itself, visit the campus career services center together. It is the one office on campus whose only rationale for existence relates directly to the career success of students. It is important that both of you know and understand what goes on there and how it is communicated to students. You will learn of the multitude of services and programs there that are designed to help students focus on preparing for professional employment in advance of graduation. You are then better able to use the information as a platform for future discussions.
- Establish a parental presence as a trusted career advisor as soon as possible. Parents report they are often uncomfortable visiting any of the offices on campus because of concern about being seen as a “helicopter” parent. There is also a sense of invading territory preserved for their child. Once you have established a presence as a trusted career advisor, your involvement will be less likely to be perceived as intrusive and more likely to be a welcome invitation into a process that is otherwise confusing.
- Remain involved even as your student moves forward to graduation. The path toward choosing a career has many twists and turns. It is helpful to them and you if they have someone to turn to. Do not take that to mean you need to have gone to college yourself or that you need to be up to date on the latest campus fads. More time than not, being the trusted voice of wisdom will suffice.
- Throughout the process do not confuse “struggle” with “failure” or “activity” with “accomplishment.” As your child struggles to achieve, it is helpful to be supportive. As they become engaged in campus activities, help them focus on the need for activity that results in something of significance being accomplished. Employers are attracted to students with that kind of track record.
These are some of the things that will help your student make a successful transition from college to career. Your “worries” will be the better for them.