College Courses and Careers

When do we finally grow up? That's the answer most of us should have given when asked, "What do you want to be when you grow up?"

I think back to when I was 18 and ready to start my college career. I had no idea whatsoever which direction to go. I had vague instincts about writing and music, but didn't have a lot of talent. So, by default, I indifferently signed up for a business-related major. I'll never forget the agony of those accounting courses I took. Balance sheets! I could never get anything to balance. My check book is mute testimony to that fact, even today.

I also recall the only all-nighter I ever did. It was related to a year-end accounting project that involved pages and pages of data and a blizzard of numbers that needed to be crunched and transferred onto ledger sheets. The only thing that got crunched was my brain and spirit. Clearly, I was not cut out for a business-related career, but how was I to know that at the tender age of 18?

So, those of you current high school seniors who will become college freshmen this fall will have to make some kind of directional decision about your college courses, eventual major, and anticipated careers. What's a young person like you to do?

One thing is for sure. Don't fall victim to the “can't, have to, shouldn't, nobody makes money doing that" mentality.

John P. Strelecky, who has been honored as one of the hundred most inspirational thought leaders in the world and whose books are used by professors at universities here and abroad as a way of inspiring students to find their path, says the stats are troubling. For example: 30% of entering freshmen dropout, the average completion of a college degree now takes six years and 64% of employees under age 25 are unhappy in their jobs. Strelecky's message? If you don't like your classes, you're going to hate your job!

Here are some of his tips for college students or soon to be college students:

* Don't default into a curriculum that leads to a career where there are projected to be lots of jobs. You'll be spending lots of time struggling through courses you don't like, to set you up for a career you don't like. Instead, follow your heart and get a degree that gets you so fired up that you can't wait to take classes.

* The common thread among truly successful people in fields as diverse as those of Bill Gates to Dennis Miller is that they are passionate about what they do. That passion is what creates drive, and that drive is what leads to success.

* Most people make significant academic and then career decisions based on the feedback of family and friends. Unfortunately, although those people are often well intentioned, more often than not they know very little about the careers or academic fields they are commenting on.

* A better route is to find one or two people who have excelled in the field you want to excel in and learn everything you can about those people. They are proof it is possible, so focus your time and energy on them and not on the people who have no idea how to do what those people have done.

Thus, in my view, and based on my personal experience, one possible motto for your college directional success might be: Follow you passion, keep your eyes and ears open, and find some role models. Not a bad way to take that first step on campus, eh?


Be sure to check out all my admissions-related articles and book reviews at College Confidential.