You may have heard that without vision, teenagers wander into food court water fountains. Or something like that. It's the same with college planning, without a vision, college-bound students may wander. This is where Higher Calling can help you get started! Here are four steps to take towards a clear future.
Step 1: First, decide that you want to earn a post-secondary education. This decision is important because some jobs may only require a certificate or some technical training. Others require more education. I recommend earning a four-year bachelor's degree since 65% of future jobs will require a bachelor's degree.
A 53-year old firefighter has been working as a professional fireman in Dallas since he was 19 years old. What an incredible career of service to his community! He earned his 2-year associate's degree years ago. When a Fire Chief opening became available, he wanted to apply. While he has the required experience, he does not have the required education. To become a Fire Chief, he needs a 4-year bachelor's degree. It is important to know what your career goals are, so you can plan accordingly.
Once a decision to earn a bachelor's degree has been made, you need to develop a plan. Start by searching for a major in a fast growing career that complements your calling. When trying to figure out what you're called to do, remember to consider what problems you want to solve, what grips your heart, and even what keeps you up at night - besides cramming for that world history midterm.
Step 2: Once you have selected a major, find a college that is the right academic, social, and emotional fit. If you select a college before you select a career option, you may find out that your favorite I'm-going-to-this-college-no-matter-what doesn't have a program with your desired major. So step 1 (major selection) comes before step 2 (college selection).
Step 3: Finally, once you have a list of colleges that are a good match based on your career choice, you can determine which is the best financial fit. If you start your college search with the cost in mind, you may eliminate affordable options. Since the average four-year cost of attendance is between $83,000 - $183,000 depending on the college (public or private) and career (liberal arts, engineering, aviation), you need to have a plan to pay for college. (Note: There are over 30 colleges where a bachelor's degree will cost a quarter-of-a-million dollars. Yes, $250,000! And you might get free pizza on Thursday's.)
Step 4: Once you've made a commitment to the right fit college, you're ready to begin preparing for your higher calling, future career, and life goals. So let's start career planning.
Making wise decisions don't just happen. You need to plan, work, review, and revise your plans. Remember, college planning is a process (watch this video by Chispa Motivation)..
This week's guest post is written by Heather Choate Davis. She was very gracious to allow me to share her blog that was originally posted on Ed Stetzer's blog, The Exchange. Heather is a writer, speaker, liturgist, thinker, and co-founder of icktank. Her books include Elijah & the SAT and Man Turned in on Himself: Understanding Sin in 21st-Century America. You can follow her work at heatherchoatedavis.com.
While high school seniors compare their financial aid award letters, juniors are taking standardized tests and underclassmen are doing homework. For college-bound students, "making the grade" has become more important than life itself. But are grades more important than God?
When I was growing up, there were A-students, and B-students, and C-students, and no one—not the kids, not their parents—worried much about it. We all found our way. A single generation later, my son arrived at our local public high school fresh out of a K-8 parochial environment to discover honors students taking Adderall to give them the edge in AP-cram sessions and the SATs, and parents being called home from PTA meetings to find their high-achieving daughters breathing into paper bags.
It’s not surprising that our secular culture has allowed the pressures of quarterly-earnings-report thinking to invade the American childhood in the name of “just wanting them to be happy.” By what other standard would success be measured? But what about those of us who claim to follow a God who promises that our children are “fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14); that in all things He “works for the good of those who love him” (Romans 8:28); that “we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (Ephesians 2:10)? Assured that there are as many kinds of good lives as there are rooms in our Father’s house—why don’t we believe it? How is it that we have fallen prey to the same lie that our best hope for our children is to make sure they look good on paper? Many have even reduced church to a platform for creating resume points: youth group team leader, oversees mission trip, “oh, and I served Thanksgiving dinner to the homeless every year.”
Data shows us that the majority of Christians are hedging their bets when it comes to their children’s futures. But times have changed, we say. The world is so much more competitive. And besides, excellence is a virtue. What we don’t say is that we’re absolutely terrified that the world won’t think our kids are quite as extraordinary as we do:
So we fluff them and fold them and nudge them and enhance them and bind them and break them and embellish them beyond measure; then, as we drive them up to the college interviews that they’ve heard since birth are the gateway to the lives they were destined to lead based on nothing more than our own need for it to be true, we tell them, with a smile so tight it would crack nuts, “Just be yourself.” (Elijah & the SAT)
It’s not that we don’t know there’s a problem: we do. We know all about the anxiety and the depression. We read all about the exceptional kids who go off to college only to find they have no idea who they are or what they care about. Kids who have mastered the art of jumping through hoops at the expense of curiosity, grit, spark, and their own unique callings. Kids who have so little experience with failure, they are unable to “shake it off” no matter how loudly they blast Taylor Swift. Looking into the shell-shocked eyes of our own striving teens we can almost hear Him say, enough! “My grace is sufficient” (2 Corinthians 12:9). Instead we say a little prayer as we rush them off to SAT-prep class, unwittingly revealing the truth that most Christians have mixed up priorities.
So how do we break the cycle, knowing that the secular world will keep on competing, no doubt celebrating the spots our kids leave open as we endeavor to let them find and follow the path of life He has for them? Well, the parents of the prophet Elijah faced a similar challenge. At a time when Jezebel and her blinged-out pantheon were attempting to drown out the sovereignty of Yahweh, they named their son, “my God is the LORD, ” boldly professing the great I AM and teaching Elijah—not with flashcards, but with their very lives—to pray, listen, and obey.
As followers of Jesus, we are called to be countercultural. As Christian parents living amidst the 21st-century lie that says that we and our children must prove our worth to the world, we are asked to repent of our own sins of pride, fear, and faithlessness, and hold fast to his Word: “For he who promised is faithful” (Hebrews 10:23). And when we start to believe that what he promised was a 2000+ SAT score, a full ride to a DI school, or a plum internship that’ll give our kid a leg up on the competition, we may want to check the Word again.
Ed Hidalgo asks, "How can a child aspire to a career they don't know exists?" (Watch: TEDxKids@ElCajon). Great question! Here are a few tips to help you explore your possibilities.
Tim Elmore asks, “What problem do you want to solve in the future?” When I've posed that question to students some answer with what they want to do – be an electrical engineer, others add a reason – I want to become a pediatrician because the doctors saved my life when I was a child, and some just stare. (*crickets*)
The key to answering this question is focusing on solving problems. This could open the door to your higher calling. And this is just the start. Consider this, if you are a freshman, you are a decade away from entering the professional workforce. So your future career might not exist.
So what problems do you want to solve? Think about it. What makes you angry (in a good way)? What motivates you to act? What solutions to you offer up for when you talk with your friends? What makes you unique? The clues are there. Once you can identify a problem you are passionate about solving, you can find the major (career) that will help you fulfill your goal.
Who are the type of people that solve the problems you identified. Discover why and how they chose their career path. What majors did they study? This will help fine tune your career vision. It's okay if it develops over time or completely changes.
Now research those careers to understand what your future might look like. Dream! To get stared, use tools like the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Occupational Outlook Handbook. You’ll learn about the salary, growth rate, needed skills, job opportunities, and what majors to consider. My Next Move builds on the handbook allowing you to search by key words or industries.
With a basic idea of the career field, your next challenge will be to conduct a short 5-10 minute interview with someone currently in that industry. Since people love to talk about themselves, you won’t have a problem asking basic questions. Ask them about their education, the awesomeness of their job (problems they solve), and the things they wish they didn't have to do.
You can interview professionals in your family, at their place of business, over the phone, or by email. CareerVillage is a place to ask current professionals your questions. And if you are an upperclassman, you can job-shadow, intern, work part-time in that field.
If you want a few career aptitude assessments to consider, contact me (blog, email, social media) for some recommendations.
This is just one step towards your higher calling.
The World Wide Web will be 25 years old on March 12. The smartphone is 26. Facebook turned 14 on February 4. The iPhone is 11. While still young, social media becoming a preferred way to communicate, even when applying to college.
A 2017 PewResearchCenter survey reports that Americans have increased their engagement of social media - from 5 percent in 2005 to 69 percent today. Social networking sites like Facebook are used 3 times more than microblogs like Twitter and Instagram. Among the five platforms studied, 76% of users check Facebook every day (up 5 percent since 2015). Teenagers make up 61 percent of Tumblr users and growing. This is why social media is being used to recruit potential students.
ARE YOU A GOOD FIT FOR THEM?
College admissions officers are engaging potential students on social media. They are viewing your profiles. Christine Koening surveyed colleges within 150 miles of Chicago and learned that 89 percent of admissions officers viewed students' social media. When I posted a photo along with a caption saying I was visiting the University of Oklahoma campus, I received 6 retweets and 19 favorites before my tour ended. A few even reached out to say hello. Talk about engaged!
Some Ivy League colleges use social media to boost their applications. Colleges are posting more pictures and videos so students can imagine themselves on campus. They are answering questions relating to the social and emotional life on campus allowing students to make informed decisions.
ARE THEY A GOOD FIT FOR YOU?
When you are researching colleges on social media, don’t just focus on the strengths of the college. Each college is going to present itself at its best, just like you. Engage with them. Ask what makes them stand out. Find out how they are resolving their challenges. Savvy students need to discover the truth before committing 4-6 years of their life to a university. And if you are not able to connect and engage with people on the college you’re interested in, it may not be the right college for you.
Since social media is a way for teenagers to express themselves, potential employers and colleges will dedicate time to review your feeds, So you should be aware of a few things regarding your social footprint. Being comfortable on social media gives some a tendency to say and share things publicly that may have kept private otherwise. Admissions officers are measuring your application against your public thoughts. The University of Oklahoma will view your social media if you are being considered for a scholarship.
Admissions officers may question the judgment of potential students who takes the time to post disparaging remarks. In Natasha Singer's article, They Loved Your GPA Then They Saw Your Tweets, she reported that “30% of the admissions officers said they had discovered information online that had negatively affected an applicant’s prospects.”
Here are some steps you can take to improve your social media footprint:
A former student, who was applying for a master’s level program, asked me to write a letter of recommendation. Before I wrote what I knew about his character, I reviewed his social media presence. After a brief conversation with him about the content of this photos and posts, he quickly untagged himself from pictures of places he’d never visited. He was accepted.
Will you be accepted? What impression is your social media footprint leaving when it comes to college admissions? Contact me so I can help you prepare for college.
Combining my youth ministry and educational consulting experience, I guide students to connect higher education with God's calling.