College plans

By the time your children reach college, you may be hoping that they have their education plans in place. You see college as a time for gaining the skills and knowledge needed in the world of work. The education plan during college supports your children's preparation for work and other personal pursuits. It continues, through longer-term goals and action steps, a process of learning, decision-making, and reflection.

However, an estimated two-thirds of college students change majors at least once. So, chances are your children will be still engaged in a process of exploration along with preparation during college.

Does this mean all of their earlier planning was for naught? It certainly does not! Students who do not have a career goal or an idea for a major in their freshman year are more likely to drop out of college. Many career goals can be pursued through a variety of educational paths, and your student may discover a different way of reaching the same goals. Also, new majors emerge as options when students take college classes in new fields and find that they are inspired by the possibilities. If your children have understood the importance of planning for reaching goals, they will use the planning and decision-making skills they have learned to move forward with revised goals and updated plans.

As noted in Ingredients of Career Planning, career plans answer five basic questions. Your college child should approach these questions with the following emphasis:

  1. Who am I?
    College students are exposed to many new subject areas and activities. Their new levels of independence and responsibility and new experiences will help them learn new things about themselves. Through their career plan, they should reflect on this latest self-knowledge and determine how it affects their goals.
  2. Where am I going?
    As your students grow in their self-knowledge, their goals for college and career may change. Their plan should indicate revised goals, personal and career.
  3. How do I get there?
    In college, your children are preparing for the first work stage on their career path through obtaining a certificate or degree or by preparing for another level of education after their current one. In either case, they need to be well aware of the requirements for their major and any further educational pursuits. It is their responsibility to know what will be required, not an academic advisor's, and their education plan should describe these requirements.
  4. What are my next steps?
    In addition to their academic coursework, college also provides opportunities for your students to strengthen their prospects through internships, study abroad, and extracurricular activities. Their education plan should describe their course plans as well as plans for these activities that will enrich their college experience.
  5. Where am I now?
    Just as in middle school and high school, your college students need to continue to revisit their goals at regular intervals. Have they changed? Do they have new dreams? Did they achieve their short-term goals? Should they change their plan or take some new action to move toward their goals? Their education plan should invite ongoing reflection and revision. The plan should grow and develop as they grow and develop.