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College Search Lessons from Occupy Wall Street

December 28, 2011 By: Category: Choosing a College

From New York to Oakland, in big city and small town alike, protesters in the Occupy Wall Street movement are voicing their strong opinions against big corporate bailouts, higher taxes and greed. While their message is unclear, one cautionary tale emerges: high school students must be extremely careful with their college search to ensure they’re gainfully employed and not in a picket line after graduation. Here are some important criteria to consider during your college search.

Photo by David_Shankbone

1. Will I get a job? Today, the college search process dynamic is different than it was before the economy entered a recession in 2008. With less jobs available and unemployment rates unwavering, high school students must pinpoint which degrees will lead to employment and enroll in those - staying away from degrees that offer little in the way of a real job.

2. How much will I owe? Knowing that employment rates are low, it’s inadvisable to choose a college you can’t afford. High monthly student loan payments are a burden - especially when good paying jobs are at a premium. The college search process should include institutions within your price range because you don’t want to graduate with a diploma in one hand and a massive bill in the other.

3. Connections! Some colleges are best known for their connections within certain industries. For example, George Washington University has tremendous relationships  with the U.S. government, providing students fortuitous opportunities for internships and then full-time positions. During your college search, find out if the school and its professors are well connected, giving you a “foot in the door” for a real job once your schooling is done.

4. Fun vs. Function. College is a great time, typically the best four years of an individual’s life. But, it’s not the late 1990s any longer. Jobs are hard to come by and the unemployment rate is almost double what it was just 15 years ago. So, getting a useful education is extremely important right now. Nobody is going to ask how hard you partied, but instead will find out what kind of education and training you received. College should still be fun, but make sure you’re fully prepared when those four years are up.

No matter what you think of Occupy Wall Street, there are plenty of important lessons materializing from the chanting and protesting - our country’s eyes are being opened. High school students should pay attention, realizing that their college search is the first step to entering the real, working world one day.