Who's To Blame For Ill-Advised Career Choices?

By Lindsey Novak

October 10, 2019 5 min read

Q: I feel sad for the recent college graduate who is now realizing her bachelor's degree in psychology isn't enough to gain substantial employment in the field.

Where were her high school's college counselors when she was choosing her major? Why didn't they tell her she would need a graduate degree to work as a counselor in the field? Why weren't her parents involved in guiding her on the value of a bachelor's degree in psychology? Why didn't she ask the college admissions counselors before she decided to major in psychology? There are too many unanswered questions for all involved to not take responsibility for the student's attending college all the way through a bachelor's degree in science and not knowing that degree is only the beginning.

After achieving a bachelor's degree and college loan debt, the student discovers she needs an advanced degree in psychology to practice as a counselor and will have to take out more loans on top of what she already owes. I suggest she not pursue a master's degree in anything until she works for a few years, makes an educated decision on what she wants to do, and researches what is required to perform in any of the various jobs in that field. Research will help her understand and plan for her next chapter in beginning a career. And working will help her learn more about what she really wants to do as a career while paying off some of her debt.

Thinking that she only needed a bachelor's degree to work as a counselor in the field shows no critical thinking or planning was done before she entered college. That's a painful and costly lesson to learn after the fact. Students need wise guidance before making college decisions that will either set them on a positive path or chain them to a huge debt before their career even begins.

A: Ideally, college counselors have a variety of responsibilities aimed at guiding high school students to choose appropriate majors and find qualifying colleges and universities according to their choices. School choices are based on each student's courses, grade point average, test scores and interests. Each college and university dictates which entrance exams are required (generally SAT and ACT), along with scores necessary to meet the academic level of the student population.

Counselors should meet with students and their parents to discuss students' interests and qualifications and guide students' decisions. The choice of school and program is what will lead them to their careers and their futures. Unfortunately, this ideal often falls short in reality.

Numerous variables are involved in forming these decisions. In addition to grades, grade point average and courses taken, college admissions counselors should inform applicants of the financial requirements and qualifications for scholarships and loans.

Schools are ranked for their overall reputation, the education and accomplishments of the professors and the quality of each program offered. A good college counselor would recommend an A-level student with high test scores to apply to Ivy League or top 10 schools, while a C-level student with average or below average test scores might be guided to apply to lower-ranked schools with lower requirements. Students also may choose schools in a desired location due to climate choices or distance from home, if travel expenses back and forth add to a financial hardship.

In addition to the variables all students must face, backgrounds and personalities enter into school decisions. Parents who have never attended college may be more naive than their children about the college application process. They may be proud of their child wanting to be the first in the family to attain a college degree and count on the counselor to wisely advise the child.

The opposite can occur, where the parents are against the child wanting to attend college and refuse to help in any way, including signing papers to show their financial means. There are also the interfering parents, who insist on pushing their children into certain fields, ignoring their children's interests. The possibilities of family situations can be at opposing ends of the spectrum, making it nearly impossible to know what the child is experiencing or what is best for that student. This can result in interference with a student's dreams, which causes confusion and leads to poor decision-making. And poorly made decisions can lead to costly errors in judgment. Hopefully, lessons are learned in all cases so the errors will be recognized and not repeated.

Email career and life coach: [email protected] with your workplace problems and issues. Ms. Novak responds to all emails. For more information, visit www.lindseynovak.com and for past columns, see www.creators.com/read/At-Work-Lindsey-Novak.

Photo credit: greymatters at Pixabay

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