7 Things Parents Can do to Ensure Their Kids Don’t Get out of College with More Loans Than Income

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It’s Spring and millions of young people are completing their final semester of college. Some, like computer engineers and nurses, may have already been recruited and accepted offers with sign-on bonuses. Most, however, are putting out feelers, polishing resumes and sending online applications. Sadly, many of them will be working in jobs they view as below their education level or unrelated to their areas of interest.

It saddens me to think of these young people facing years of debt and disappointment when they realize that they were ill-advised by well-meaning  high school guidance counselors. Convinced that a 4-year degree is the ticket to a high-paying job, many chose “business” or “communications” as a major by default, figuring they can always work their way up in corporate management. But there are more college grads than appropriate job vacancies and if they are able to secure entry level positions, there are no guarantees that they will either rise in the company or have a job a few years on. Most important-will they be happy in those jobs? What about the kids who actually major in something they love like the arts or literature? How can you as a parent prepare them to find work that will pay the bills?

I’m not suggesting parents or counselors discourage college or insist their kids choose “marketable majors” but there are steps parents can take to help their kids prepare for the world they will likely face when they graduate.

Unless they major in a field that’s in high demand,  why not help them think creatively about how they can use that education to earn a living without a job. There’s nothing wrong with young people getting out of school with the expectation of job offers but they need to have some alternative ideas.

Here are some ways you can help:

  1. Insist that she works in her field of interest during college. Even an unpaid internship can prove valuable. She may find that this area of focus isn’t what she imagined OR she may discover a need or lack in that profession and find a creative solution which could become a lucrative business.
  2. Have her keep a list from the beginning of what areas of study came easy to her. What tasks did others ask for her help with? It’s easier to identify these gifts when you’re right in the thick of it than in hindsight 4 years down the road.
  3. Ask her to always be thinking about what resources or tools she wishes were available to her while she is in college. Sometimes this can lead to a brilliant discovery. Often, it’s what we struggle with the most that we find we can make a career or business out of solving.
  4. Suggest she keep a “trends” diary. She may roll her eyes at this one but it’s a super valuable gift to have when she graduates if she can identify or even predict trends. Not just style and fashion. Trends can include transportation, eating and social habits, even wellness modalities.
  5. As she finishes each course in college, have her keep a list of the skills she learned, which ones she enjoyed using and how they can be used in unusual ways.
  6. Rather than seek summer jobs, suggest she use gifts she excels at and enjoys using to offer a service for a fee. This may develop into something she can turn into a thriving venture.
  7. Encourage her to join a young entrepreneurs group on campus, even if she has her heart set on getting a job. This will expand her creative thinking and work her possibility muscles.

Remember you’re not trying to dissuade your child from completing her degree and landing a job. You’re just giving her alternatives to think about so that when she graduates, she has options. The worst that can happen is that she discovers she chose a field she doesn’t enjoy working in. At least she’ll know early enough to take different courses. The best that can happen is that she will find she can create her own job doing what she loves.  If creating their own summer job is of interest check out this e-guide. It’s got more than 50 ideas for kids and adults of all ages 

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