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S. ABINGTON TWP. — Choosing the right career path can be overwhelming, but don’t worry.

There are things you can do while you’re still in high school to make the right career and college decisions with confidence.

Choosing a career

When looking at colleges, it’s helpful to have some career ideas in mind before making your final decision. The NCCES (National Center for College Education Statistics) says 80% of college students change their major at least once. If you narrow down potential career options before committing to a college, you can save time, money and stress.

While in high school, begin to learn about yourself and what jobs you would fit well in and enjoy. Take career and personality tests, attend career planning or college prep workshops and talk to people who know you well such as teachers and mentors.

As you narrow down options, start researching the job industry. Request interviews with a variety of employers in fields that look interesting, so you can ask questions about their jobs. See if they would be willing to let you shadow them for a day at work.

College professors are another great resource. They can share current hiring trends and talk about what other college graduates have done in various fields.

Finally, consider applying for local internships. Whether you do this before or during college, it’s a great way to experience a job before committing to the field. It also allows you to begin networking and gain references and letters of recommendation for future jobs and college applications.

Clarks Summit University offers Career Direct, a Christian-based career counseling resource to help students and alumni make connections for internship and job opportunities, as well as prepare them with various soft skills.

Remember, it’s okay to not know what you want to major in just yet. However, it will serve you well to narrow down your options to help you plan for success. Once you have an idea of what you want to study, it’s time to find the right college to meet your needs.

Choosing a college

When looking at colleges, there are some obvious things to consider. Do they offer your chosen degree program? What is the graduation rate? What percentage of students are hired after graduating? Is it financially manageable, and what can they offer for financial aid?

There are also other things to consider. Think about the atmosphere of the school; is this a place where you would feel comfortable and succeed? Some students excel in a small school setting, while others do better in a large classroom. What is the school’s world view? While it is good to be pushed to consider new ideas and learn a new perspective, you also want to make sure that you are comfortable with the perspective and value system the school offers.

You will also want to consider the opportunities for students who attend the school. Are there student leadership organizations or community service clubs that you could be a part of? Are there part-time jobs on campus or internship openings in the area? Clubs, leadership and internships will help grow soft skills and look great on a resume.

Here is where you may also consider location. A school located in a more rural area might have appealing perks, while a metropolitan location might have a faster pace. Look at the community surrounding the school, and see if it is a setting in which you would feel safe and comfortable.

Finally, make sure you use your early high school years to go on college visits. This is a great way to observe the atmosphere, meet professors, get career advice and talk with current students. Keep a pros and cons list for each school to make it easier to compare. On your visits, take advantage of opportunities to talk with professors; they will be up-to-date on trends in your chosen career.

Many dates are available for visiting Clarks Summit University. Go to ClarksSummitU.edu/visit to learn more.

Getting ahead

Many schools will offer perks for students who make an early commitment. When speaking with admissions counselors, ask about these benefits.

Clarks Summit University offers a locked-in tuition rate to juniors who enroll a year early, as well as gift cards up to $1,000, a streamlined application process and a T-shirt for those who enroll in advance.

Make sure you research benefits as a sophomore or junior in order to have time to take advantage of them.

Dual enrollment (taking college classes while in high school) can help you get ahead in college. By taking general education or introductory courses, you can narrow down potential career options and make your course load lighter in the future. Didn’t love the history course? A social studies degree may not be for you, but an introductory business course may ignite a passion for entrepreneurship.

As an admissions counselor at Clarks Summit University, I’ve been able to work with hundreds of students to help them find a major and determine if Clarks Summit University is a good fit for them. I’ve learned a lot in that process—but I also had my own my experience choosing a college and narrowing down career options not too long ago.

Don’t stress about these important decisions, but plan to set yourself up for success. Narrow down job and career fields and begin the college search early on to make a wise decision.

You can do this.

Haley Seboe is an admissions counselor at Clarks Summit University and a 2017 graduate from CSU’s communications-writing program.