The Cost of Being "Lost in College Space"

In my previous blog post I wrote about looking at college as if it is a “plane flight”, and what you plan to do after an investment of significant dollars over the course of four or more years as your “destination.” This post is focused on that destination. The destination, in this case, is a pool of potential fields that the college journey will have prepared you to enter. So think beyond college for this purpose. What fields do you think will interest you? More importantly, what are the roles within these fields that might interest you?

There is no question that the subject of “a destination” is daunting for a person who is beginning to think about college. However, it is the most important subject one needs to consider. As I pointed out previously, you would never go to an airport and buy an airplane ticket without knowing the destination you were planning to fly to. So why would you commit to a four-year journey that is hundreds of times more expensive than a plane flight, with no idea of your planned destination?

First, let’s define the “destination.” The destination is a place where you will want to jump out of bed each day because you are excited by what you will be doing. A place filled with plenty of opportunities and plenty of challenges that appeal specifically to you. These particular opportunities and challenges energize you and motivate you. They will probably not energize and motivate everyone, and that does not matter. The only thing that matters is that they energize and motivate you. Does this sound like a great destination?

There are hundreds, if not thousands, of potential “destinations” for you to choose from. At the same time there are hundreds, if not thousands, of potential “destinations” that will be of little or no interest to you. How do you go about looking for destinations that might interest you? More importantly, how do you decide which destinations should be completely avoided? And can you imagine being faced with these questions at the ripe old age of 17 or 18 when you actually have no idea about what any of these destinations might look like?

You could follow a time tested method called trial and error. Take some college courses, see if you like them. See if you can get passing grades in these courses. Keep going. However, even if you get a passing grade, do you believe this is truly a good indication that you will want to turn this positive experience in some college courses into a career path that leads to an ultimate destination? For some students, the answer is absolutely -- yes! However, do you want to count on getting lucky this way? Again, this is back to jumping on a plane without really knowing where the plane is going.

Today the trial and error method can be extremely expensive. Starting down a path and changing course one or more times can cost a semester of lost credits for courses you will never use, as well as potentially lower grades on courses that you cannot remove from your overall grade point average. It could also delay your entry into the job market.

This is all OK if you do not mind incurring anywhere from $15,000 to $25,000 for each “lost semester”, adding this on to the student loans you might be paying back for the next 15 to 20 years. Research has shown the average cost of a lost semester is approximately $45,000, when you factor in the cost of lost salary and wages from entering the job market later than you anticipated.

Needless to say, these are very expensive “airplane tickets” and you might still not be sure if the new destination you selected is the one you really want. You only know it is “less worse” than the last destination you thought you wanted.

Is there another way to discover your destination?

The answer is yes, but it requires a committed effort: One of assessing yourself, assessing your likes and dislikes, using some time- tested tools for this purpose, as well as doing your own research and looking for internships enabling you to visit some destinations. We'll explore this more in my next post.

Additional posts in this series: