Wharton professor Peter Cappelli shares 8 tips for students who’re considering going to university.
#1 What interests you?
Spend some time thinking about what interests you in the classes you have taken in school. What are you are good at? Look at programmes, and study the majors and requirements. If you’re not too sure, choose a programme that’s not so complicated that it’ll be difficult to get through.
#2 Allow yourself some wiggle room
Remember that there’re a lot of choices, and that you’ll likely change your mind at some point along the way about things that you like. Unless you’re absolutely sure you know what you want to do, leave yourself some options.
#3 Think about your motivations and readiness
Why do you want to go to university, or choose a certain course? Are you doing it because your friends are? Are you willing to do work more intensely than you have at school before?
#4 Be flexible and open to change
Understand that if you go down a particular path, it’s not terminal – you can back up, and go on a different route later. Your first degree is not necessarily your last exposure to college.
#5 Thinking of going abroad?
You may feel that you’ve always wanted to go to, say, Australia. Going through college education, living in another country, and being away from home for the first time is a lot to pile on at once. Ask yourself if you’re the kind of person who has easily adjusted to these kinds of transitions before.
#6 Look out for work experience opportunities
Search and volunteer for experiences that will help you build up the behavioural skills that employers around the world look out for. Can you communicate well, manage yourself, solve problems, and show up on time? You could be the smartest kid in your class, but if you can’t get along with other people, it’s not going to help you in the long term.
#7 Have a frank chat with your parents
If you’re feeling nervous about making these choices, that’s all right. They’re big decisions. Do talk with your parents about what you’re thinking, and don’t just tell them what you think they want to hear, or make a choice just to please them. That may not work out well in the long term.
#8 Still not sure? Don’t beat yourself up about it.
Be realistic, and realise that you don’t know everything yet. Being able to pick a career at 17 or 18 is difficult. Don’t feel bad if you aren’t sure what you want to do when you’re 18, because frankly, nobody does.
About Peter Cappelli
Peter Cappelli is the George W Taylor Professor of Management at The Wharton School and director of Wharton’s Center for Human Resources. He’s also a research associate at the National Bureau of Economic Research and has long been involved in federal government policy-making regarding the workforce and education. Since 2007, he has been a distinguished scholar of the Ministry of Manpower for Singapore. He delivered the first SkillsFuture lecture – on “Building Skills for the Future” – at SMU in March 2015.