Tuesday, August 6, 2013

How to Earn a College Degree You Can Be Proud Of

What would it take to earn a college degree you could really be proud of? That is the important question to be asking this time of year as the back-to-school sales are in full swing. Typically college carries a significant price tag when it's all said and done. According to the College Board, students paid an average $22,261 for the 2012–2013 academic year at an in-state, public institution. Since most degrees take a minimum of 5 years to complete traditionally, the price tag for this essential "door-opener" to the American dream starts at a "moderate" $111,305. For most Americans, only the purchase of a home will exceed this price tag. Although, it seems that much more care is put into that purchase than the decision to head off to college. To cross the finish line feeling the money, time and energy was truly worth it; every student should begin with the end in mind, develop both their character and resume, and graduate debt free. Only then does opportunity abound.

How does a soon-to-be college student begin with the end in mind? The National Center for Education Statistics has found that 80% of college students change majors at least once while many do so three or more times before graduation. If the purpose of a degree is to launch a successful career, why does the journey not start by evaluating personal wiring, strengths, weaknesses, likes, dislikes, etc? At a price tag exceeding $100K, college is NOT the place to find yourself! Start by discovering yourself and then deciding on a career. Having done so, interview those who are already in the field to learn the various routes in and what is really required. Don't assume a common or popular degree is the only way to break into a particular field. Intelligently knowing your options allows you to develop a quality plan which best meets your goals. Don't just start college. Begin it on purpose--with the end goal in mind.

Your end goal should also include the development of your character and resume. College is often a false environment. Ironically, the traditional college approach is typically 5 years of suspended reality--parties, extra-curricular activities and skipping class--on someone else's dime while employers in today's job market are all looking for dependable, hard-working team players with at least some valuable experience of the real world. Ever-changing, fast-paced advances in technology produce the rapidly developing marketplaces we now face. The men and women who learn independently of a classroom, training program or seminar, are frequently considered irreplaceable in most organizations. When upbeat endurance, problem-solving and critical thinking skills are key components included in the college years, the result is one who will excel in his/her career over the years.  A useful college degree contains the flexibility necessary for work, travel, internships--for life. Upon graduation, your character and resume should be better for the experience because your time invested in higher education includes so much more than a handful of advanced academic concepts.

If you manage to select the right career, improve your character and begin a worthy resume through your college years; will you still believe the five years and more than $100K was worth it when you are immediately saddled with the average $27K or more in student loans waiting to be paid? Most graduates don't. Spending more time on a degree does not increase the quality of the education. Spending more money does not guarantee a superior result. When you are mapping out your path through college, why not select a school which allows you to transfer college credits which have been earned by the quickest and least expensive methods? After all, the academic material covered in History of the United States I or Financial Accounting or English Composition is the same whether earned through a semester/year long course, CLEP test, or other method. The difference is simply how you demonstrate college level understanding of the subject. The ultimate goal is to launch into life with the credentials and skills you need to succeed. Honestly no bonus points are given for spending additional time or money.

With few exceptions, the usual approach to the college degree is no longer the only--or even the best--approach. It is now just the "traditional" approach. Admittedly, some degrees do still require this method, but not all. Determining the goal behind completing a college degree, investigating what is really required and then developing a plan that minimizes the time and money which must be spent along the way; is essential. Most significant is minimizing cost. College grads who are now facing a tough job market AND student loan payments are the first ones now desperately asking the question: "Was it worth it?" Although they have earned the all-important college degree, they do not embody the picture of the proud, college graduate painted by the leaders in our culture who preach its necessity. Consider your plan carefully. Find out how Accelerate University can help you earn a college degree you can be proud of.

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