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A Model Education – Planning Ahead Pays Off

The following is a guest article provided by Joseph Baker.

Many liberal arts educations are set up in such a way that encourages students to try their hand at many subjects before settling on a major. The idea is noble in that discovery is one of the most important parts of higher education. Exposure to new ideas of which you were previously unaware can be the catalyst to a lifetime of passionate study. On the other hand, many students get stuck in indecision, taking on a major that may be convenient for grades but not representative of the career path they want to follow.

When a company wants to test something out, they create a rapid prototype of it. A rapid prototype is essentially a model from which the manufacturer can determine what changes need to be made before a product is churned out en masse. It helps save costs during the manufacturing process because a small mistake could result in a huge and costly recall.

Indecision could be that defect. Coming into college with an actionable plan for what you want to achieve puts you on a dedicated path and gives you a focus and a goal to strive towards over your college career. That’s not to say there can’t be variation – you can and you should attend classes that interest you, that put you out of your comfort zone. Sometimes those classes are the most important ones. Just don’t lose sight of your goals. Even if they change, making sure you are aiming for more specific than “a degree in something” will help you avoid the same pitfalls that consume year after year of students.

Speaking from experience, this is the largest and most depressing reason to switch around your college career. By my junior year I was working three jobs, enrolled in the honors curriculum and drowning in the stress and anxiety of it all. Financial aid had run out and I was failing in classes I cared about. It’s not uncommon. In fact, it’s long been known that dropout rates are linked to financial woes.

Students who pay for school themselves are more likely to dropout due to financial issues than those who get help from their families, according to a survey conducted by Public Agenda reported by the New York Times. Many students are faced with the reality that they may not graduate on time due to class scheduling, changing majors, and other factors. The survey shows that 2.8 million new students enroll in higher education every year. Of this number, only one in five students who enroll in an associate’s degree program graduate in three years, and two in five who enroll in a four-year plan graduate in six years. Students who face paying for tuition themselves may not be able to afford the tuition for extra years.

When money woes occur, there is often very little you can do about it other than try to mitigate your exposure, find more college money resources (apply for grants and scholarships like crazy, take on a second job, take cheaper classes) or drop out. It’s a dreary juncture to come to and it can be avoided with a comprehensive plan going into college. It’s a tall order to ask a high school student or first year freshman to plan their academic careers in advance, but the payoff, though distant, is worth it.

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