How to Select a Career and Avoid Student Debt

University, major, major, degree, job – a traditional path to a career. Student loans become the financial means and at the end the student has massive amounts of debt. Lisa, in the BUZZ Today insert, is a classic example of the result of this traditional approach to education. But what is the alternative?

Buzz TodaySource: Lisa racked up most of her $300,000 in loan debt from going to Brooks Institute, a top school for photography in California. Upon graduation, she discovered she’d never make enough money from photography to pay her loans. “I just got caught up in the whirlwind of borrowing and borrowing and borrowing just so I could graduate,” she said

The alternative is to create a totally different pathway from who you are to a career that can sustain you and your loved ones. Beginning with the University as the first step is a big mistake. The university that you select has an important impact on many of the steps you can take to avoid accumulating huge amounts of student debt. The first step is to begin the process at a different place. Begin with you.

In Your Future is Calling I strongly suggest that you begin with understanding who you are. This is done through a wide variety of assessment tools that help you understand your personal strengths as well as your personal preferences. Some have called this finding your passion. It is so important because you will ultimately face the same decision at the end of your educational process.

The danger is that you fall into the student borrowing trap Lisa found herself in. The trap is that you become attached to a college and a major. This leads to sunk costs in the form of more and more loans required to complete the degree. It then becomes “have degree – seeking a job”. The degree actually limits options while the debt continues to pile up. Federal student loans cannot be discharged through bankruptcy so they remain a burden into later life. Here is an example of what can happen.

Courtney, another recent college grad, reflects the life long trap of the traditional approach. Source: After living on her own for two years, she has recently decided to move back in with her parents to save money. “I’m not saving for my future. I can’t see myself having children or getting married or saving for a house. I feel stuck,” she said.

The alternative is to create a different pathway. I recommend a totally new sequence. Here is the path outlined in Your Future is Calling.

Who you are, career, major, degree, university, job. Along this path you have a much better chance of:

* Finding a career that fits you and gives you a better shot at health and happiness;
* Deciding on a career that will pay enough money to finance your major and your degree;
* Reducing the amount of student debt by avoiding the major, major, major trap and non productive credits.

Selecting the right career at the beginning is a key step to avoid excessive student debt at the end.

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