The statistics leave little doubt that post secondary education is the best way to improve your earning power. But simply going on to college is not the best way to approach such education. Target your post-high school learning to specific goals, a publication of the U.S. Department of Education suggests.
Schooling that meets your goals.
There are many types of universities, colleges and other training opportunities. Picking the one that meets your goals can save you time and money. If a one-year certificate will get you the job you want, don’t head to a four-year degree institution. For some students, the one- or two-year qualification may set you up to earn enough to finance further education, if that’s what you want.
It is sometimes possible to combine work experiences and training at the same time. “Stackable credentials” may be available and could move you toward additional education while working to pay for it.
Campus size and experience.
Consider what size campus and student population makes you most comfortable. It can have a telling effect on the quality of your education. Consider extracurricular opportunities and social aspects of the experience if those things are important to you, but always work toward the short-term goals. Do you want to be near home or in an entirely new location?
Best programs for chosen field.
If you are already determined to pursue a particular career objective, choose an institution that will get you there without a lot of side trips. Research the academic departments in several schools to determine if they have strong programs in your chosen field. Network with people already working in your chosen career path. Their advice could be valuable.
Choosing a career.
If you are not set on a career, an academically balanced school will give you the opportunity for exposure to a variety of options.
Explore financial opportunities.
College costs are going up and you should explore any an all opportunities for scholarships, grants, work-study options and loans to prepare to meet the financial challenge. Search online to see where you can get the best education for the money expended. Be acutely aware of how much debt you want to acquire. Education debt has become a drain on future earnings for many college graduates.
Prepare while in high school.
While you are still in high school is the best time to prepare to meet the requirements of the post-secondary institution of choice. Some colleges and universities have admissions policies that require you to apply six or eight months before you expect to attend classes. Others accept new students year round. Many have minimal GPA or SAT scores.
Look into retention rates.
Dropping out of a higher education program is costly and time consuming and leaves you years away from the goals you set. Don’t stop short of the goal if you can help it. Look at the retention rates of the school you want to attend. They may give you clues as to how much the school will be willing to do to hold onto you as a student.