The year will soon change to 2017. Winter break is a great time to reflect about your life in 2016 and set your 2017 New Year’s Resolutions for the upcoming year. For the high school and college student, this also means reviewing your academic goals and making sure you are headed in the right direction. Your goals can be either to attend a specific college/university or get that coveted job. I have listed several ideas to consider during this internal reflection. These ideas were lessons that I often used with my own three girls as they went through their high school and college years.
Sometimes the pressure of being a parent can be overwhelming. We all just want our children to be happy and be productive adults. It can be frustrating at this stage since we often don’t know if they are hearing what we are telling them. As our children are transitioning to adulthood, we as parents must also change. I call it the parent change from sergeant at arms to a mentor.
Here are some ideas that my wife and I used to help our children get on the right path and you can use to help set your 2017 New Year’s Resolutions:
Half of the school year is over and now is the time to review your GPA and prior semester’s grade performance. If it is not as strong as you want, make an active decision to seek help with your teacher/professor. Another easy solution is to ask at school if there are any tutors available. Sometimes just a little help can go a long way.
For the college student, take a quick review of your credit hours and make sure your presumed targeted date for graduation is correct. Understand the correct number of credit hours for your major and also required electives. The college graduation date can be impacted by dropping classes or by not taking a certain number of credits each semester. If you found that you are not managing your time correctly take a quick read of our time management article and make a commitment to change bad habits and improve your study time. When college starts back in January, schedule a visit with your college adviser and confirm you are on the right track.
Review your Career Choice and Major
Picking a career and major is not only a difficult decision but one that often evolves as the student goes through school. We recommend going to your guidance counselor in high school and the career center in college. Reviewing what you like to do, what you are good at and discussing it with a professional can help you find something that is not on your radar.
The student then needs to do some research or schedule time to take a Career Assessment test. It can give them an idea of their psychological preferences and how they make decisions. Over the break, encourage the student to network with family and friends who are working in the field they are interested in so they can discuss a typical day in that career. Review the quality of life and educational requirements needed to reach that goal. An analysis of future employment need and salary growth should be part of the review.
Build Your Resume
From the time a student enters high school, students are encourages to become involved. This involvement allows students to add activities that can be listed on their personal resume and college applications. January is a quiet time to write or review a resume. If the student finds it is lacking there is still time to join activities or possibly volunteer. Volunteering or shadowing a job can also give insights into possible careers.
College students need to evaluate internships and co-ops that may be available. The best place to start that search is the college career centers or the department chair’s office at your college.
Start Your Job Search
Don’t wait until the spring to find a summer job. Start the job search now before the majority of your peers. For the high school student, determine if you summer job needs any pre-requisites such as certification to be a lifeguard or possible background searches for work. Using your parent’s network of friends and relatives can be a good starting point. Finding a job in fields that you are interested in can be helpful for future decisions and discovery.
For the college students, the time search for summer jobs may be different depending on your major. For certain majors, the fall is a time for many employers to come to your campus and interview for internship opportunities or summer jobs. If you missed this, one of the first stops when you go back to college in January is to visit the career center and find out what opportunities are available to you. Look at all of your resources including friends, family and professors.
Plan Spring Break
Start thinking about what you will do for spring break. For many, it is a time of travel but it can also be a great time to add a service activity to help build your resume.
Not sure about your major or career choice? My oldest daughter used four days of her freshman year spring break to shadow different speech pathologists. This was a career that was not on her radar screen until after her first semester of college.
She was able to experience different settings, situations and specifically the typical day of a speech pathologist. At the time, she was an accounting major and was debating on switching to become a speech pathologist. It was quite a change but having the observations of the job possibilities enabled her to find her passion and alter her course selections for the next year. It resulted in a college change, also. With this discovery, it allowed her to plan summer courses so that she would still be on track to graduate in four years at a different college.
Think About Recommendations
For the upcoming junior in high school, begin to think who will be writing a recommendation for your college application. Find out from the college guidance office at your school when teachers are typically asked for this recommendation. Knowing your deadlines can take some of the stress out of the process. This part will become more important with the Prior Prior change as we will see a compression of the application and award letter process in 2017.
The college student needs also to review their past work and personal history and decide who they will list as references for resume and employment applications. Carefully building contacts can help in the future job search. It is never too early to start thinking about the future.
Know you Deadlines
It is important for both high and college students to know their deadlines. Standardize testing, college applications, financial forms and deposit day all have specific deadlines. Review each month what is expected of you so that deadlines are not missed. The FAFSA became available October 1st for college bound and current college students. Check and see when this deadline is for your specific college/university. More than 190 colleges moved up their deadlines this year.
One deadline that is often not thought about is your living arrangements at college. Discussions on whether you will stay in the dorm or move off campus are important to review. Part of the review should include a price assessment of living on campus versus off campus. It should include other cost such as the need for possible furniture and transportation.
Another factor not usually considered when renting, is the rental contract time. One of our daughters switched off campus rentals after junior year and during the process discovered that the rental time frames did not match up with her current lease. Her old lease was up two months prior to the new lease. After living at college for the last 3 years there was quite a lot of furniture which could not be transported home. That year we had the added expense of storing the furniture for two months until the new lease became available. Granted, it was split three ways but it still was another unexpected college expense. It also required the physical need of two moves which was not easy.
Another consideration to think about in January is if you want to include a semester abroad as part of your college experience. Check the application deadlines for the place and academic study you may be interested in, specifically what courses you will be taking. Make sure the courses offered will still keep you on track to graduate on time. It is also important to check with school to make sure you have all the valid requirements to study abroad such as a valid passport and the typical timeline needed to obtain all the documents.
Review College Bill Statement
This goal may seem silly to some but I think it is always good to review you statement to make sure everything is in order. Unexpected bills such as a medical visits or library charges may be on the account and you may not even know it.
Due to the requirement of medical insurance by college, this can be listed on the bill. Most students already have coverage through a parent’s medical plan. By showing your proof of insurance, this amount can be eliminated.
Plan a Lunch with an Older Peer
We all try and guide our children but they do not always listen to our advice. Suggest your child have lunch with an older college graduate and have them share their college experience. Getting advice from a peer is a great avenue for your child to get more information.
An older peer can give their insights into how they marketed themselves for their specific career, specific courses to take and about different areas of their college experience that they would change. We can talk about how important it is to graduate in four years but having a peer explain how it cost them more money and lost opportunity for a job might hit home stronger than a parent’s own words.
We hope the year 2017 will be great for everyone. Carefully reviewing your child’s goals both academic and monetary can help to relieve stress for families and may lead to better decisions. Your high school and college has great resources to answer your questions. Encourage your children to use them! The EFC PLUS website also has blogs, videos and webinars to help you stay current on financial aid and college topics. We hope every student is able to achieve their 2017 New Year Goals!