Q: My friends and I have many questions about college, jobs and success in life. If college is necessary, does it matter if it's a top university or a small local college? What are the best majors and minors to pursue? What are the most useless majors? Are there majors that require graduate degrees in order to get a job?
Schools are so expensive that we want to know the unbiased truth. Some of our parents won't listen to what we say.
A: Loving, caring and involved parents have invested their lives into their children, guiding them according to the values and opinions they want to impart. Parents don't have all the answers but have good intentions, so hear their wishes and reasoning — then research the facts to convince them otherwise if your desires conflict with theirs.
Completing undergraduate or graduate school is critical for certain types of jobs in certain fields. Some professions, for example, require extensive coursework, training, final testing and licensing for students to become practicing professionals (this includes medical doctors (M.D.); psychologists (Ph.D.); registered nurses and dietitians (RN, RD); dentists and surgeons (D.D.S., FACS); veterinarians (D.V.M.); certified public accountants (CPA) and numerous others).
National ranking and accreditations of schools is crucial. The higher-ranking schools will have the most comprehensive degree requirements and brilliant professors on staff, who have themselves graduated from top universities. And they will always exist, compared to for-profit schools that may be here today, gone tomorrow.
Top testing scores, high school grade-point averages and oftentimes interviews are relied on to screen students for admittance. Graduating from a top-ranking school carries weight throughout a person's life, even if that person is not working the field. (This is why the recent scandal of celebrities and other millionaire parents illegally paying large sums to get their undeserving children into Ivy League schools has brought about charges by federal prosecutors.) Many schools besides the Ivy League and "Top 10" have excellent educational rankings, with the quality of particular programs varying from school to school. If a student qualifies for admittance, attending such a school can positively affect or change the direction of one's life.
There is no best major or minor. Find a major and minor that stimulates your desire to learn. What is useless to one may excite another. If you graduate with a degree focused in a particular field, you might remain in that area for years to come: That's where working in your passion proves its value. Obtaining a college degree doesn't automatically enable you to make large sums of money. It will educate you in your field of choice. Some fields offer higher salaries than others, but trends change and few people stay in fields that add no joy, inspiration or meaning to their lives.
If money alone motivates you, sales jobs offering a base salary plus commission can lead sales reps to make millions (assuming they know how to manage money). Numerous variables contribute to a person's financial success; understanding finance and economics is a field of its own, and the lack of knowledge on this is highlighted by the stories of those who've won millions through lotto, only to lose it all within a few years.
Mark Zuckerberg, Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Ted Turner, Oprah, Lady Gaga, Brad Pitt, Ellen DeGeneres and many others took detours from college to explore and pursue their dreams. Intelligence and inner brilliance plus creativity will shine with or without college, though it can be encouraged and enhanced by the initial pursuit of a formal education. What is certain is that none of these highly successful people focused on becoming multi-millionaires or billionaires. They pursued their passions and money followed.
Students who lack varied life experiences may routinely enter college taking a liberal arts approach without declaring a major. If nothing grabs one's attention or motivates one to learn and do more, consider taking a leave from school to travel or work. Experiencing independence greatly helps one to mature. Parents may not be thrilled at this choice, but living independently can help to educate students about other cultures, subcultures and life overall. But beware: Traveling independently and living on one's own is not a safe journey for those who lack high emotional intelligence, a strong sense of responsibility and common sense.
The road to success is easier for those who know themselves, their values, morals and ultimate goals. A year off between high school and college, whether traveling or accepting a minimum-wage job temporarily, may be all one needs to end the confusion and discover areas of interest. Then returning to college can add focus and greater meaning to one's life. Searching for passions early in life may also help in avoiding midlife crises that disrupt families and halt their progression.
Email your workplace issues and experiences to [email protected] For more information about career and life coach Lindsey Novak, visit www.lindseyparkernovak.com, and for past columns, see www.creators.com/read/at-work-lindsey-novak.