Graduates – Use Summer to Learn How to Avoid College Fail Points

The fading strains of Pomp and Circumstance echo in our ears as the summer after your senior year in high school beckons.

If you are going on to college in the fall, don’t let summer roll by without doing some preparation work to help you avoid typical college fail points.

Here is what they are and how to get ready to duck them.

Failure to keep in touch with high school buds and teachers.

Your are going to need (or at least want) a job. Knowing someone in the company or field is your best bet to landing a position. Hands down, it beats skill, intelligence, appearance and resume.

You already have lots of contacts, not only your classmates, but also their parents, siblings and your teachers too.

Keep in touch not only to help each other out with jobs, but because people make life richer, fuller and much more satisfying. It is far easier to keep in touch than to try to hunt classmates down years later, trust me, I know.

Failure to find out how to land a job after school.

By now you should know where you plan to attend school in the fall, but do you know whether or not actual for real employers will come to that campus to recruit students getting a degree in your chosen area? Time to find out.

Talk to any alumni you may know (hint parents, cousins, that kid that went off to college last year) to see what they know about it.

Read up on what colleges may offer.

According to What Do College Career Services Offices Do?, career centers may offer help in figuring out what careers there are, what people do in those careers, tests to see where your interest and abilities may be best utilized, interviewing practice or resume reviews. Look especially for on campus recruiting and online job portals the college may offer to help place students.

Go find the college ‘placement’ or ‘career’ department online and check out what they have. For example, the University of Toronto offers career development services https://alumni.utoronto.ca/benefits-and-travel/career-development-services to current students and recent graduates.

They offer:

  • Career education
  • Career exploration opportunities
  • Support with gaining work experience
  • Workshops, seminars and special events
  • Resumé critiques
  • Current job postings for full-time and part-time opportunities
  • Career eBook Resource Library

Work on figuring out how you can best get referrals from your professors; what kinds of extracurricular activities count most for where you want to be and whether or not there are paid or unpaid internships that you can look into applying for.

Failure to make and keep new connections during college years.

Again, contacts are the most important item needed when trying to land that job.

According to NPR article: A Successful Job Search: It’s All About Networking 70 to 80 percent of jobs ARE NEVER POSTED. They are filled via current employee connections.

This summer, plan ahead to develop a system to meet and keep in contact with people at school. Students (especially upper classmen who will be hitting the job market before you), teachers -who can put in a good word for you with employers (who may also happen to be past students) and even parents of room mates or sorority sisters – who may be on the watch for people in their fields, or know of a job via their networks.

Failure to be smart about credit.

Who carries cash anymore (I mean besides old grandma me)? High school grads today have seen parents using credit cards (or maybe even their cell phones) to charge everything from gas to groceries to online purchases. In their minds, part of the college experience is being an (almost) adult, which in turn means access to credit.

BUT, grads, be smart about it. Yes, if you have a job or a co-signer you probably can get a credit card. But that doesn’t mean you know how to stay out of credit trouble using it!

This summer, sit down with an adult who uses credit responsibly (who may or may not be a parent) and sift through those fine print terms and conditions. As Forbes article Five Tips For Deciding When To Open A Student Credit Card says:

“Finally, make sure they read all the rules regarding interest rates, repayments, annual fees and late fees prior to applying. Too often, individuals wait to read these terms after getting the card if at all. Teach your college-aged children to make the most educated financial decision possible.”

You don’t, after all, want to spend 4 years sinking into credit card debt and then have to dig your way out while trying to start your career.

Be smart, don’t treat your buddies to drinks, charge spring break trips or use expensive credit for other purchases where the product is gone before the bill comes.

Keep track of what you have on your monthly card bill. Pay it off each month. Use their money, don’t let the card companies milk you dry with interest, fees and extra charges (like out of network atm fees).

Your credit rating is a precious thing. Take care of it, and it will save you money down the road – on insurance, interest on loans, and more.

Pay your bills on time when trying to build credit history. According to FICO, http://www.myfico.com/credit-education/whats-in-your-credit-score/ the 2 most important parts of credit usage is whether you pay bills on time (35% of your score) and how much of your available credit limit you are using (30% of your score). It can take up to 7 years to repair damage. Spend part of your summer understanding what a good credit rating can do for you and how to get and keep one.

Failure to be the master of drugs, alcohol, and tobacco.

College is typically your first taste of independence. Mom and Dad aren’t there to say NO to something that might harm you. Classmates are sampling all of these things, shouldn’t you do it too, just to see what it is like?

I’d say no. With some drugs, even a one time use can cause permanent damage. I personally have two extended family members who got hold of some bad stuff and suffered permanent brain damage – resulting in inability to function normally. Is an experience really worth that?

Alcohol and tobacco are going to be available. You are going to be pushed to try and to use. Both are addictive. Both are expensive. Both damage your health. Don’t let drugs, alcohol or tobacco become your slave driver. Decide now, whether or not you want a life long addiction, then map a plan to avoid the pressure to use.

Failure to understand the opportunities (or lack thereof) for your major field of study.

Many high school graduates are expected to move on to college studies. Parents feel it is the path to a better life. Yet few people know what path they want to take in life at high school commencement.

Explore multiple fields of study to see what opportunities there are for monetary, social and personal reward. What kinds of hours are folks expected to work in those fields? Is an advanced degree needed to get your foot in the door or move ahead? How many years of study will be needed to get where you think you want to go? What kinds of work is required after school (for example medical doctors probably will be undergoing an internship or residency requirement before becoming a fully qualified doctor)?

Once you’ve narrowed your choices, look around to see if there are ways to try out that field before you commit to a major in it. Can you do an internship? Can you job shadow someone to see what day to day feels like?

Failure to seek new experiences.

Being focused on the future is great and planning is needed, but don’t forget to fully use the college experience to grow as a person. Being away from home, surrounded by peers and others from different backgrounds and upbringing, allows you to experiment with new ways of thinking and doing. Don’t shy away from reaching out to meet people different than you, with different opinions, religions, habits, interests and etc. Try out different roles, activities, points of view, ways of dressing or wearing your hair.

Just don’t go overboard and forget your main purpose in seeking higher education.

Failure to exhibit self control.

It is easy to be distracted from your main purpose. Discussions, parties, dances, hayrides, concerts, activities, events, ball games and more are on 24/7.

This summer, think through what you want to achieve in college and figure out a plan to stay on track. How many hours of study will you need for each course? How many courses will you be able to handle each semester while still exploring the college experience? How will you say ‘no’ to the ever present peer requesting your company?

Being a college freshman is a whole different ballpark than being a high school senior. My spouse attended private schools until reaching college. His freshman year was a real struggle – he didn’t know how to study and learn the way the profs required. He was used to memorizing facts and having parents lean on him to get homework done. In college, you are in charge and responsible for making sure you get to class and produce academically. You have to be self regulating to succeed.

In Why Your Freshman Year In College Will NOT Be 13th Grade the author noted that students, even though highly motivated, financially secure, academically prepared and actively engaged joined in the 32% of all freshmen enrolled in American colleges and universities who drop out before their sophomore year

The author indicated that the students … “treated their freshman year in college as if it were their 13th grade in high school and therefore failed to adapt successfully to their new academic environment because they were either unable or unwilling to change the behaviors, attitudes, and/or strategies that helped them to succeed in high school, but which caused them to fail in college.”

So high school graduates, prepare yourself!


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