Getting a College Education Can Still Work; Here’s How

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Once upon a time all you had to do was graduate with a college degree and there would be a good job waiting for you in the outside world. Your career trajectory would be set, working your way up the corporate ladder to a coveted vice presidency of some sort.

But those fairy tale days are long gone in American education. Today, the mere possession of a college degree guarantees nothing – and often comes with a crushing load of student loan debt.

There’s still plenty of time to have fun at college. And opportunity. But smart students plan their college activities in advance, with an eye to playing economically to help whittle down later IOUs.

And networking is still part of the college scene. The friends you make at school today and the professors you manage to impress will stand you in good stead in years to come.

But most of all, start planning NOW to hone your employability / leadership skills and building a dynamite resume before you graduate.

Here are a few things to keep in mind:

Avoid Major-Jumping

While part of a college’s mission is to broaden your mind by introducing you to many different disciplines, its not a good idea to constantly be changing your major every six months as the whim strikes you. Your freshman year is the year to experiment and sample; if you feel you have to make a change, do it then. Then settle down and get to work completing all the requirements for your major. And if you’re torn between two different majors, then get a double major; it can be a real bonus on your resume.

Be an Intern/Volunteer

Suppose you’re getting your degree in History. The competition for teaching jobs in that field is intense. You’ll need a little something extra to pique a school’s interest in you. Working as an intern in your school’s history department or in some other teaching context will show how serious you are about it. And if you can’t find an internship that meets your schedule, then volunteer as a teacher’s aide to teach history at the grade school/high school level.

Don’t Forget Student Organizations/Sports

There’s everything from the chess club to football to the Young Republicans. Join a group that has some connection with your major. Any sports participation shows potential employers that you’ve had some training in being a team player. Plus it teaches you additional discipline and can give you an edge with the physical glow that only comes with a hard workout.

Plan It All Out

In the real world, you rarely ever get to set your own deadlines. There are not many bosses that like to hear I’ll get around to it sometime or other, when they are handing out assignments. So college is the ideal time to plan out what you want to accomplish while in school and how long you will take to accomplish it. Be specific. And write it down. Instead of writing “I will graduate in four years,” you should write “I will graduate in four years with blank number of credits.”

You might even want to invest in a whiteboard and markers, so you can continually update your goals and plans, reviewing them every day next to the bathroom mirror or mounted on the refrigerator door.

It might take a while to establish such a specific and intense planning habit, but once it’s in place, it will serve you well in any kind of post-college position.

Melissa Thompson writes about a wide range of topics, revealing interesting things we didn’t know before. She is a freelance USA Today producer, and a Technorati contributor.