7 helpful questions for the college decision

Mike Miller  ·  Jun 01, 2015


By Taryn DiMartile and Russ Bennett

In working with parents and students considering college, here are some questions families often find helpful in evaluating a college choice:

1. Do I have a purpose and a plan?

It’s surprising how many college students pay $40,000 a year to “find themselves.” Every year, $19 billion in college credit is lost in courses that no longer apply to a student’s current major. College can do many things well, but it is a very expensive place to wander around with no clear sense of purpose.

2. Do I actually need a degree?

Once a student has determined where they’re headed, they need to ask this big (and sometimes scary) question. Not all students will need a degree for the career or life plan they are pursuing. The best option for many students is to pursue college if it is needed to reach their educational, career, and financial goals. Talking to mentors in their field of interest is a great way to find out whether a college degree is likely to be helpful in that particular area.

3. What is the return on investment for the field I’m considering?

All investments should pay off at some point. Unfortunately, education sometimes escapes the scrutiny we give to buying a house or setting up an IRA. Will the extra money spent for a college degree be likely to equal or exceed the money that can be earned with the degree? For students who someday want to travel, do charity work, start families, or launch their own businesses, college debt can be a chilling dream-killer for their future.

4. Will my college major stand the test of time?

The days of an employee receiving a gold watch for 50 years of service are becoming a thing of the past. It is projected that today’s teenagers will work at 11 different jobs in their career, changing jobs about every four years. While specialized degrees and double majors may sound cool, it’s usually wise to stick with a broader degree that will stand the test of time. Specialization can come later through a master’s degree or a certification, if needed. While a teenager may love horses, majoring in Equine Studies may not be the best decision when it comes to finding a job.

5. Do I need an expensive degree?

With three out of four students today graduating with transfer credit, they probably don’t need to go to the same school for all four years. Nor do they need to suffer through overcrowded community college classrooms, or classes that conflict with other priorities. There are enough options out there to enable earning a college degree that fits their goals without breaking the bank.

6. Have I taken personal responsibility for my relationship with God?

College exposes young adults to many new worldviews, beliefs, and often, college faculty with radical agendas. A college can be a mission field or a place where spiritual fervor is extinguished. If a student hasn’t been increasing in strength in their beliefs before college, the college experience is usually devastating for their spiritual well-being. Going to an elite school or taking a high-paying job isn’t a win if it comes at the expense of one’s most deeply held convictions.

7. How can I get the skills employers want?

In a 2014 Gallup study, both college presidents and employers were asked how well colleges were preparing students for the workforce. College presidents thought they were doing well at preparing workforce-ready graduates, but employers vehemently disagreed.

If getting a job is the finish line of a degree, students should focus on getting the skills employers want. After all, employers, not college presidents, act as the gatekeepers to the workforce. Employers today say they need competencies like problem-solving, verbal communication skills, the ability to function on a team, and digital literacy. These timeless skills give graduates good chances of staying employed during the uncertain and exciting times in which we live.

CollegePlus believes teenagers shouldn’t have to sacrifice their beliefs for a college degree, or be crippled with lifelong debt. For the complete list of helpful college questions, visit collegeplus.org/samaritan