Deciding if college is for you is understandably a big decision.
It's a pivotal moment when you decide what you will do with your life. It could mean the difference between a good career, or wasted money and years of your life.
The glory days of graduating from college and getting a decent job immediately upon graduating have long been over. Generation-X and beyond have missed the train on that one, and now young people are faced with the reality of stiff competition with more degrees than there are jobs, and settling for employment that one is overqualified for.
There are other options outside of college that should be considered.
The entrepreneurial route is a viable option for anyone determined enough to roll up his or her sleeves and carve out his or her future.
Instead of encouraging people to immediately enroll in college, we should be encouraging people to explore and take their time in deciding what path is best for them. Unless you know exactly what you want, throwing yourself immediately into college after high school is not the best course of action.
Upon graduation, students are in a rush to get on with their lives, but there is no shame in taking a year off from school to travel and get your hands dirty in the real world. It's good to cultivate a sense of who you are and what you want.
It is the perfect moment in your life to try new things and make mistakes, so you can make career decisions later on with an adult perspective, rather than a inexperienced, fresh-out-of-high-school mindset.
There are a lot of unspoken rules about life that are not learned in school, many of which can only be learned through the experience of trial and error.
If you decide to go the college route, research the career options of what you are majoring in. You must be prepared to ask yourself a ton of questions sincerely.
Is there a future in it this degree/career? Is it a growing industry? Are there more jobs than qualified people in the industry? Are there any economic trends in the next five to 10 years that will greatly increase or decrease your value in the workforce?
In addition to having the willpower and financial commitment to your post-secondary endeavors, ask yourself, are you passionate about your major and its accompanying career? Have you talked to anyone in those careers to find out what a day in the life of the XYZ profession is like?
An unfortunate reality of the workforce is you may inevitably come across a career that is difficult to break into or move up in because of nepotism.
You don't know the right people, nor do you have a relationship with them. The lack of these things can be stifling to your career trajectory. One can circumvent this by simply networking and meeting new people in and related to a desired career.
Attend industry events; get to know you professors for referrals; go to meet-ups; do your best not to be a stranger in your potential future industry. You can still do this with integrity and enterprise while you socialize.
Don't waste your time getting a useless degree from a useless school. School is good, but some schools are nothing more than a cash grab with less than impressive academic courses and useless programs that add no competitive value in the workforce.
When I see some of these programs advertised on the Internet, I shake my head, thinking those students are better off getting their degrees from a vending machine.
Schools are also businesses; they want your money, which is why a plethora of useless courses and degrees are being marketed to you. Make smart decisions and school will become an amazing time in your life, positioning you for a good career and many college memories.
Be social in college; get to know people and join organizations. You never know what kind of connections you will make in college with your fellow peers.
Many multi-million-dollar startups were founded between several college roommates who had a brilliant idea, which leads us to our next section: taking the entrepreneurial route instead of, or in addition to, school.
The most important thing to consider when starting a business is the viability of your idea. Market research is important, and can easily be done a number of ways, one of which is with the Google keyword tool.
If a lot of people are searching for your product or service, that's a good indicator there is a demand for it.
One also has to ask themselves a number of sincere questions: Is this something you can see yourself doing and enjoying? Are there economic trends in the next five to 10 years that will benefit or hinder your business? Who is your competition and what is their daily life like running such a business? What are the liabilities involved in starting your business?
An obvious recommendation is to have a business plan. It doesn't need to be a complex 50-page business plan, but it should at least cover all the key areas of concern in depth, especially the marketing plan.
You should have a clear guideline of how you intend to spend your start-up capital, whether it is seed money from a venture capitalist, a small bank loan or your own savings. Always have a game plan with clear goals and deadlines of when you plan to get to the next checkpoint.
You also have to have a high tolerance for failure.
Many of the most successful entrepreneurs have failed more times than succeeded. Accept that failure will be part of your learning curve, and failure is likely to take the form of losing money.
The most successful Internet marketers I have come across have been successful because they are result-oriented. One must always test and track the results of all the variables in business that make and lose money.
You also need patience. Patience is required to reinvest the majority of your profit back into your business instead of spending it lavishly on yourself.
The only way to grow is to continually reinvest in yourself and your business. It's good to aim high and to want to make money fast, but one must be prepared to give his or her business a realistic timeline of how long it will take to make the ideal money you want to make.
Some wildly successful startups don't even make a profit until year five. Success doesn't happen overnight.
Surround yourself with motivational figures. Watch endearing Steve Jobs speeches; listen to Anthony Robbins; give your mind some motivational juice to get you through the day.
Most of your colleagues will have taken the path of going to school, so you will most likely be of the few who took the road less traveled. You need constant motivation to keep yourself from joining the herd during times of self-doubt and disappointment.
There will be failures on the entrepreneurial journey, and only those with a strong mental attitude can keep going.
Remember that pesky nepotism? It is also present in the world of business. Many people do business with people they like, and in some industries, it can be hard to establish yourself unless you know the movers and shakers.
Networking is very important, and you should hone your people skills, as I have found many successful business owners have an ability to create a human connection over and above the business customer relationship.
Life is meant to have meaning and fulfillment, and the last thing anybody wants is to be in a career that makes him or her unhappy and undervalued.
Take the time to do your research and ask questions. Parents, teachers, guidance counselors, professors and bosses won't do it for you. This should be the biggest homework assignment of your life.
There is no rush. Be present; be in the moment, and take your time to decide what is right for you. Your parents and your teachers likely have valuable input, but at the end of the day, you must do what is right for you.