4 Essential Steps to Prepare for College

Since I graduated from college over 15 years ago, I often found myself asking the question : “why didn’t they tell me that when I was in high school?”

That’s what this blog is about. Preparing for college to be successful in your career. Those who choose college are doing so to create greater opportunities within their career field. The challenge for high school students is that college decisions, major selection, and even general career decisions can be completely overwhelming.

Even when I arrived on the college campus with no clear major in mind, I thought that my assigned adviser would provide me with tools to discover a career choice that I might enjoy and use my talent. Unfortunately, my experience mostly involved scheduling general education classes and my decision to choose a major was completely up to me…an 18 year old with very little self awareness and no clue what career to choose.


4 Essential Steps to Prepare for College

  1. Discover your unique design

    You were created with very unique abilities. Abilities are different from skills and interests. Abilities are usually solidified around age 15 and remain stable throughout your life. As a Career Counselor, I use the Highlands Ability Battery as a tool to help uncover a person’s natural abilities. Examples of abilities include personal style abilities such as introversion/extroversion and specialist/generalist. Driving abilities are extremely important to your career. If you have strong driving abilities, they will need to be used on a regular basis in order for you to feel successful in your career and college major. Driving abilities include Classification, Concept Organization, Idea Productivity, Spatial Relations Theory, Spatial Relations Visualization.

While this may sound unfamiliar or overwhelming, relax. It’s actually just a simple way to help you learn more about your natural design. The sooner you discover your unique abilities, the sooner you will make effective decisions about college.

Why is this important? Well, the most recent census in the U.S. revealed that only 27% of working adults with a college education are actually using their college degree. That means that approximately 73% of college students are working on a major that they will never use. Here is an article for further reading on the topic. In essence, you probably do not want to spend 4-5 years working on an English degree only to discover that you really do not enjoy teaching. Or to get a pre-med science degree only to discover that you may not enjoy the medical field. You can avoid that mismatch statistic with the following two steps.

2. Meet with your guidance counselor

Guidance counselors in high schools often have excellent tools to help you prepare for college. Ask about career assessments, personality testing, local career coaches, ACT/SAT prep, college selection guides, career fairs, and college fairs. Your guidance counselor will likely have an immense amount of resources to provide you with a great start in your journey to select a college, degree, and ultimately a career.


3. Interview a professional in the field you’re most interested in

Be sure to connect with someone in the career field that you think you are most interested in. If you want to teach, try serving as a teacher aide for a day. If you think you want to be a nurse, ask around to find out shadowing opportunities in your local hospital or physician office. Here are some questions to consider when you shadow or interview this person:

  • What does your normal workday look like?

  • What do you enjoy most/least about your job?

  • What do you wish someone told you when you were in high school about this job?

  • What do you recommend I do in order to discover if I’m a good fit in this type of career?

If you are unsure of how to connect with a professional in your chosen field, step 4 will help you solve that problem!


4. Consult an education or career coach

A Career Coach can help you dive deep into your unique gifts. There are many basic tools on the internet to conduct self assessments. There are two downsides to these online self assessments: they are not scientifically based and they do not provide the personalized assessment of a certified career coach. A career coach can help you sift through the plethora of college major options that will be thrown at you and enhance the work you begin with your guidance counselor. Remember, 73% of college students are currently pursuing degrees they will NEVER use. Even if you feel highly confident in your college major or career choice, it is a wise plan to seek out professional career and college coaching to empower you in these pivotal life decisions.

An effective career coach will take into account your interests, skills, education, family of origin, experiences, and your natural abilities to provide you with comprehensive feedback about college choices and career decisions. Remember: You are gifted! You are uniquely designed! You CAN have a successful future!

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