Guest blog by Catherine Seraphin, Assistant Editor, Online Specialist with Carnegie Communications, formerly Alloy Education.
When you sit down and think about all that money you’ll someday spend on college tuition, it’s a little intimidating, isn’t it? Thousands upon thousands of dollars spent on classes, room and board, cafeteria meals, books, supplies, and so much more. According to the College Board’s “Trends in Higher Education,” average published tuition and fees at public four-year colleges and universities increased by 27% beyond the rate of inflation between the 2007–2008 and 2012–2013 academic years. You may not be able to predict how that number will change in the future, but you and your child can take on two major responsibilities to ensure you’re not bulldozed by a continuing trend: save for college to cut those costs down and make the tuition dollars you are spending work in your student’s favor.
Now, you’re probably all too aware of the importance of college savings, but how exactly can your child make the most of those tuition dollars? With forethought, prudence, and taking advantage of campus resources, to start. Think of what the tuition is essentially paying for: a degree. Although it may be a difficult conversation to have, you and your teen need to talk about what kinds of majors pique his or her interest, and furthermore, whether or not that degree will pay off over time. This is not to say that you should discourage your child from pursuing his or her dream, but taking on $50,000 in debt to study a field with a $30,000 average starting salary may not be prudent. Fortunately, there’s a wealth of resources out there to help you and your college-bound student prepare for these realities. Here are some tips for approaching this conversation:
Explore options early
The earlier you and your child start researching, the more potential majors you can explore together. Start with some basics like career tests and personality assessments to get started. Your teen may be interested in a range of majors, and if that’s the case, don’t attempt to narrow it down just yet! Rather, encourage your student to explore career options for each, especially those ambiguous majors that might lead to myriad careers. For example, CollegeXpress has several series that looks into majors and subsequent careers, including:
- What Can You Do With a Physics Major
- Visual Arts and Design Majors and Potential Careers
- What Can you Do With a Political Science Major
The more he or she knows, the easier it will be for your teen to see whether or not that particular major is the right choice. And don’t forget: entering college undecided isn’t the end of the world! If that’s the case, students should fulfill general education requirements early and explore different options through the school’s career center, clubs/organizations, and other resources, working closely with their academic advisors along the way. Besides, tapping into all these campus resources? That just makes those college bucks go even further!