Top 10 Things to Help Your Child Get Prepared for College & the Workforce

Here are some statistics high school counselors and college consultants probably have not shared with you:
• 45.2% of those who start undergraduate college programs will not graduate within six years.
• 28% of college graduates move back home. That number is closer to 50% in high-cost-of-living markets (like Calabasas).

If you would like your child to graduate in four years and be situated in a position where he or she has multiple job offers on graduation day, here are 10 things to help better prepare him or her for college, transitioning into the workforce, and life as an independent young adult.

1. Make the best grades possible. In today’s world, a post-secondary, four-year, undergraduate degree is a prerequisite for many of the best-paying jobs. That means graduating from high school and having the needed grades to be admitted.

2. Figure out potential career areas before starting college. We all have to go through a journey of discovery to find out what we are passionate about and good at. If anyone is going to get out of bed to work at something for 40 years, it might as well be something she or he enjoys too! Students should try different jobs and call employers of interest to set up informational interviews while in high school so that they can start college on the right track.

3. Narrow it down to a career area that truly interests the student. After doing some homework, students need to narrow their focus to one area that excites them the most. From an academic standpoint, if students did well in high school in a subject area, they can anticipate that they will do as well, or possibly even better, in college in that same area. If they struggled in a subject area, they will not likely flourish in college in that area. In other words, if they disliked math, why would you or they think they would do well in an engineering or finance program? Being interested in a subject makes it easier to excel in studies.

4. Pick a post-secondary institution with a good program in the student’s area of interest and have a plan to pay for college expenses. High school counselors and college consultants can provide great insight to the first part of this. For the second part, student loans, summer and part-time jobs, co-operative education programs, scholarships, and the U.S. Armed Forces provide many alternatives to fully paying for college. If your child has a college fund, you may wish to make the boundaries clear regarding what happens once that money is used. Having a prior understanding will make sure everyone is on the same page, especially if your child will be 100% responsible for additional funds. This gives her or him the opportunity to plan accordingly. I knew three students who had 0.0 grade point averages in our freshman semester. All dropped out. All had college funds and no issues happily spending their parents’ money!

5. Balance book learning with the development of people, leadership, time-management, and organizational skills. There are three types of smarts needed to be successful: 1) book smarts; 2) people smarts; and 3) street smarts. Employers, especially the ones that pay the best, are looking for graduates with a relevant education, relevant skills, and relevant experience. All of the things mentioned in this suggestion are skills that are transferable to any industry. All of them can be gained while in college, albeit from volunteering.

6. While in college, get involved in campus and community activities, groups, and clubs. Every campus has a student government and multiple clubs. Students can learn a lot through such groups while in college that, in addition, don’t cost anything. Whether one gets paid to get experience or not, all relevant experience counts on the resume. Also, those who hire graduates know students can pay $5 to join a club and never show up. Leadership positions matter!

7. Learn how to network. Many great jobs are not advertised other than via word of mouth. I and many other students I know landed great jobs and internships thanks to networking. A great mantra: Your network = your net worth.

8. Build a strong resume. In follow up to #6, many students do not see the value of getting involved in campus or community activities because they don’t get paid. Yet, the less money an organization needs to spend on training someone, the more attractive that person is to a recruiter and the higher probability of a better starting salary. I have seen 1,000 resumes come in for an entry-level position. We interviewed five. All had relevant skills, education, and experience. The best jobs go to the best-prepared graduates.

9. Know how to interview. As good as their resumes may be, students still must go through the interview process. They need to do homework on the company and the interviewer and have intelligent questions prepared beyond: “What’s the starting pay?” Many interviewers are looking to see how interested candidates are in their organization. Roleplaying with a friend, sibling, or parent helps. Tip: Many interviewers love to boast. A statement and questions your child will want to bring up are: “I aspire to grow within the organization; where did you start and how did you get to where you are today?”

10. Students need to take full responsibility for their futures. When your child turns 40, will he or she be miserable because of decisions made at 18 to make you happy or to continue to see a high school sweetheart or friends? Upon college graduation, will he or she be moving back to your home because he or she did not build relevant skills, education, and experience for a desired career? The sooner each person takes responsibility for the decisions he or she makes, and corresponding actions, the more the likelihood of success grows exponentially.

Author John R. Jell is the President of JELL Training & Consulting. He spent 25 years with The Coca-Cola Company® and Nestle®. He is the author of two highly acclaimed youth career preparation books entitled “From School To A Career” (8th-10th graders) and “So…You Want A Great Job When You Graduate!?” (high school juniors to college sophomores). Both are available on Amazon.com. John has been lecturing on this topic for over 25 years at national and state conferences, colleges, and high schools.