The most time-consuming thing a student will do during the college application process is research. They will have to research different colleges, programs, majors, financial aid, dorming, and more to get the full picture of what each school has to offer. Luckily, in 2020, all of this information is readily available online. Yet, it’s the information that is harder to find that is the most valuable.
Hundreds of websites and services will guide and coach you into how to get into college. However, not everyone explains what happens when you get there. Very rarely do you find information regarding advice from college graduates about the obstacles they had to overcome and what they experienced after graduation? To gain this knowledge, you must put in time and effort to speak with other college grads.
The majority of the college grads I speak to were unprepared for the next steps in life because they didn’t take time to prepare themselves. They never sought out the advice of those who came before them. You must include this type of research while going through the college selection process. Therefore, I challenge you to contact a college graduate, sit down with them, and as them these five valuable questions.
What Would You Do Differently When Applying To Colleges?
We all make mistakes when doing something for the first time. Some errors are unavoidable and are apart of the growing pains of being an adult. However, sometimes, you can avoid making mistakes if you know what to look out for. The only way to know this is to learn from someone who made a mistake previously. It might have been unavoidable for them, but by taking the time out to speak with them, it can be very avoidable for you.
Many of the graduates I have surveyed over the years talk about how they wish they had looked at more schools. If the individual you are speaking to shares this regret, ask them to expand upon it. How many more schools would they have visited? Why did they stop when they did? Would they look for different things? The answers to these questions will give you a list of items to keep in mind during your search process. I guarantee you will learn things you would never have thought to think of.
What About College Were You Not Prepared For?
Every graduate I have ever spoken to has a story about something they were not ready for when it comes to starting college. The answers have varied to include classwork, homework, due dates, living at school, and being independent. Whatever it may be, they ended up having a hard time transitioning into this new phase of life. This is avoidable if you are asking the right questions.
When discussing this topic, ask questions about what caught them off guard and what they had to do to adjust it. This lets you know what awaits you and what you need to prepare for. Ask about their first few classes and any pain points they experienced. The chances are good that their answers will reveal possible issues you did not even know existed. College has a lot of moving parts, and most people do not realize all of them until they are actually in it.
If You Could Go Back To College, What Is One Thing, You Would Do Differently?
Everyone has things in life; they wish they could go back and do differently. This is especially true when it comes to attending college. Most students attend college without having a solid understanding of the real world they are supposed to be preparing for. Therefore, once they get their first job, they end up wishing they had done things differently to be better prepared for it.
Ideally, you are trying to learn from this person’s mistakes. For example, a graduate may talk about how they did not get enough work experience before graduating. Clearly, they are saying this because they struggled to adjust to the workforce. The takeaway here is that internships are essential. When looking at colleges, ask about their internship program and how they prepare there students for the real world. Then, remember to apply to multiple internships throughout your college tenure. This type of mindset allows you to avoid the common mistakes most graduates fall into. It also prevents you from becoming the same type of regretful graduate in the future.
What About Applying To Your First Job Were You Not Ready For?
As a high school student, all your energy and attention is on applying to and getting accepted to college. It’s natural not even to think about what life is going to be like after college when you have not even gotten there yet. However, this is a common mistake that most graduates make. It is a mistake that leaves them unprepared when they are about being their careers.
Now, I am not saying that as a 17-year-old high school junior, you need to have a full understanding of the job application process. All you need at this time is a basic understanding of what will be expected of you. Any insight regarding what employers are looking for will be invaluable as you work your way through college. If you know you will need a particular skill after graduation; you can plan how you are going to work on it during college.
What Is One Piece Of Advice You Would Give Someone Currently Applying To Colleges?
This allows you to gather any information that was not covered in the previous questions. At this point, the person you are speaking to is recalling their memories associated with applying to and attending college. By asking them this broad question, they will give you there most detailed and honest advice.
Regardless of what they say, be sure to pull out all the relevant information and write it down. Capture any regret they have or lesson they learned. Then, make sure you are taking time out after the conversation to review that list and create an action plan around it. The information you are gathering is useless if you do not create a detailed plan of how you are going to use it to your advantage.
In most aspects of life, the answers you seek lie with those who have already done it. You owe it to yourself to be as prepared as possible when entering this crucial phase of life. Take the time throughout your junior and senior years to speak college graduates and ask about their time in school. The more people you talk to, the more knowledge you will get, and the better prepared you will be for that next step in life.
Kyle Grappone is an educational coach helping students prepare for the next steps in life.