“Who in the world am I? Ah, that's the great puzzle.” - Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland
How Not To Stumble Into Your Future
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. College planning is a process. You need a plan. In the "Rising Cost of Not Going to College," researchers learned that "the surest path to a good job and satisfying career runs through college."
Perhaps you were like Notre Dame University and Oakland Raiders football player Tim Brown who asked, "What are my skills? How am I supposed to use them? What does God want me to do with my life?" He wrote, "For me the key to answering those questions is having spiritual connection to God. When you are in tune with Him, reading His words in the Bible and praying, you're in a position to get the answers you need go ahead and ask him to give you the gifts he has in mind for you and to make it obvious what they are. They may not be the talent that others have, but that's okay. We're not all born to be preachers or missionaries or musicians at the front of the church. Maybe you're skilled at repairing cars or balancing the budget period each of us is unique and each of us has a place in God's plan" (The Making of a Man, p.37).
God has a unique plan for you!
In Genesis 2:15, we read that God placed man in the garden to "work and watch over it." The original desire for work was a blessing. It sounds like Adam's higher calling was to be a gardener!
Mark Twain said, "The two most important days in your life are the day you're born and the day you find out why."
Here are four steps you can take to help you define and refine your why.
Step 1: First, decide that you want to earn a post-secondary education. This 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 in America will require a bachelor's degree. In a 2019 survey conducted in Dallas County (Texas), they learned that 65% of the workforce required post-secondary credentials, yet only 28% of local high school students were earning those credentials.
A 53-year old firefighter had been working as a professional fireman in Dallas since he was 19 years old. What an incredible career of service to his community! He had earned his 2-year associate's degree years ago. When a Fire Chief opening became available, he wanted to apply. Unfortunately, while he had the required experience, he did not have the required education. To become Fire Chief, applicants needed 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. (See my note below about hearing God's calling for your life.)
Step 2: Once you have selected a major, find a college that is a good 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.
And what about the potential social and emotional fit. Angel Perez, Director of Admission at Pitzer College wisely said to “keep an open mind about everything you do in college. . . ‘some may’ make you uncomfortable. If you are always comfortable, you will never grow.” Bruce Poch, Dean of Admissions at Pomona College added that "Students who know what they are looking for have better luck finding it and can do a better job of articulating their hopes and interests in their applications.
So step 1 (major selection) comes before step 2 (college selection).
Step 3: Then, when 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 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.
Step 4: Now that you've made a commitment to attend the college that is the best fit for you, you're ready to begin preparing for your higher calling, future career and life goals. So let's start career planning.
Robert J. Massa, VP for Enrollment at Dickinson College once said that "There are at least 50 colleges that will be a “right fit” for you!” The challenge is to narrow them down to the right one. Making wise decisions doesn't just happen. You need to plan, work, review, and revise your plans. Discovering your higher calling, as well as planning for college, is a process (video by Chispa Motivation).
FUN FACT: At some colleges, students are tossed into campus water fountains on their birthday. Hope you were born in a warm month!
NOTE: A survey of pastors showed that "more than half...sense a call to ministry between the ages of 14 and 21." Those pastors attended church as children (85%), grew up in a small church of less than 200 member (48%), had a healthy church environment (84%), and were involved in their youth ministry (72%). Unfortunately, I have not found a survey of people called to their vocational ministry in the marketplace - which is just as important! My take away is that being active in a healthy church and youth group where you are studying and living out the Bible will provide a spiritual environment allowing you to hear God's calling for your future vocation.
"If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets even as Michelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music, or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well." - Martin Luther King, Jr.