So, you’re thinking about going to college or having an interest in mind that requires some level of higher education? Great! But where do you start? Many people are thrown into college without a plan of attack and don’t know where to start. Here are the three essential steps to designing a college plan that works for you.

Find Your Goal

Let’s start at the beginning by starting at the end. Where do you see yourself in two years? Four years? Eight years? Finding your goal gives you something to work for. If you’re not sure, start small. For example, your goal could be simple, “In one year, I will be enrolled in college.”

Starting with smaller goals will give you some practice to work towards those bigger four-year-plus plans. Suppose you already have a long-term goal in mind. Be sure to make your goal as specific as possible. Say you would like to be a teacher (great! We need lots of those!), do you know what type of teacher you want to be exactly? Elementary school (multi-subject), or High school (single subject), or even special education? There are so many different directions you can take with your career path. If you’re not quite sure yet, you can scale it back and make your goal about deciding which specialty you’d like to take.

Now that you have your specific goal in mind, let’s move on to the next step.

Make a List and Check it Twice.

You have your goal, and you’ve visualized yourself there. So now, let’s focus on how you’re going to get there. Start making a list of everything you need to get there and work down. Example: Perhaps your goal is to become an accountant. Let’s take a look at what you’ll need to get there.

You’ll definitely need a bachelor’s degree and perhaps some additional certifications, depending on which type of accounting you want to pursue. After you check off your educational requirements, it’s time to look at where you will go. Start researching your desired schools and find the ones that have accounting programs. Take an extra step here and look into the exact requirements (classes you need to graduate) and see if that is a good fit for you. It’s ok if you change your mind here; just go back to the first step and pick a new goal.

After you have your list of educational requirements, you need to evaluate your resources. What do you need to get to school? How much will the school cost you? Housing? Transportation? These are all the things you need to consider because not only will this affect you now, but those effects could last for years to come (i.e., loans). So definitely look into grants and scholarships (money you don’t have to pay back) to minimize the amount of money you borrow.

While this all may seem a little overwhelming, keep your goal in mind. Theodore Roosevelt once said, “Nothing in the world is worth having or worth doing unless it means effort, pain, difficulty… I have never in my life envied a human being who led an easy life. I have envied a great many people who led difficult lives and led them well.” Keep your eye on the prize, and let’s move on to the next step.

Be Loud and Proud (and take some notes along the way)

Some studies say sharing your goals with others can actually keep you from reaching them. Turns out, it actually all depends on who you share them with. If you decide to go public with your future plans, be sure to tell someone you look up to (perhaps someone in the field you wish to pursue). Research shows that sharing goals with someone you admire actually increases your commitment to your goals, and you’ll be less likely to fall off the wagon.

Be sure to take notes on their experiences as well. You could pick up some more valuable tips along the way to help you in your path towards your future. Ask them lots of questions about their college and professional experience. You can also get an idea of what you’re in for and if you still want to pursue that particular goal or if you should reevaluate your plans.

And last, ask for help if you need it. Speak up! Many people want to help you further your education and reach your goals. Talk to advisors at your prospective colleges. Join forums on social media and open up the conversation with other students, alumni, and prospective students and learn what they’re going through or have gone through to get to where they are today.

Need Help Getting Started?

Still undecided? That’s totally fine. About half of all college students entering for the first time are undecided, and over two-thirds change their major at least once. Your best bet is first to get to know yourself and find a path that fits you. Our SELC (Social-Emotional Learning Competence) Report enables you to find appropriate fields for your individual needs. This report uses our PCB model, which analyzes an individual’s view of the world (perception), how they process that information (conception), and how the relationship between the two influences an individual’s characteristics, traits, and preferences (behavior). This unique and individualized report will help you get to know yourself better along with your strengths and challenges and help you find your goals, and will give you the power to build better plans to help you get there.


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