Prepare now for college education

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By Joan Martin

College applications will be due soon for early decision/acceptance notification.
Thanksgiving was always the target deadline in my household. Family gatherings during the holidays are also times when the relatives ask high school seniors what they plan to do after graduation.
College isn’t the only answer for high school students. It may not be the best fit for some students and may be more expensive than justified for the student’s career path.
Nevertheless, typically a person’s income increases as their level of education increases. Unemployment is usually higher among people who have less education. Individuals who didn’t complete high school have the highest unemployment rate and the lowest potential earnings on the average. There certainly are notable career exceptions.
The purpose of this column is to help students consider if their career ideas are a good fit with their education plans. Community and technical colleges, school-to-work programs and trade schools can be a good fit for many students.
Seniors who are college bound may be able to lower the cost of their education by passing Advanced Placement exams and/or CLEP tests. The exams are expensive but not nearly as expensive as college credits are at four-year universities and most community colleges. An entering freshman who has 15 or more credits upon admission to college, may be able to reduce college attendance time by one semester.
Community colleges provide the necessary skills for entering a variety of occupations. A two-year nursing program will be less expensive than a four-year degree. Jobs with a BSN may pay somewhat more and allow for more opportunities for advancement.
The projected job growth through 2018, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, shows that the following five occupations will have the highest growth: registered nurses, home health aides, customer service representatives, food service workers and personal and home care aides. The three fastest growing jobs in Kentucky will be among the lowest paying: cashiers, retail salespeople and waiters. The fourth fastest growing job is also one of the best paying – registered nurses. Truck drivers, elementary school teachers and general managers are also among the highest paying jobs but they are near the bottom on the list of the 12 fastest growing occupations.
Seniors who are considering majoring in broad areas such as history, English or art (non-teaching degrees) might need to evaluate what they want to do after college. A four year school may or may not benefit them in future salary when educational costs are considered. Salary potential isn’t the only consideration though when determining whether or not college is best for you. It is one of the considerations though. You want to make sure that you think about the cost of education compared to the earning potential especially if you have to borrow a significant amount of money.
There are other considerations when choosing post high school education. Class size, opportunity for assistance, overall atmosphere, and career services are also important. A college with an excellent reputation but not well suited for the graduating senior may be a bad fit and result in an unhappy student.
You may want to explore career options. Consider taking free career interest inventories on-line or ask the high school guidance counselor for assistance with career interest questions.

Joan Martin is a family and consumer sciences agent at the Anderson County Extension office.