How to Ignore the Noise and Make the College Choices Right for You

Control what you can control and forget about the rest of the noise in the higher education debate. Is college too expensive?  Yes. Is college worth it? Yes, if you chose wisely. Can you wind up with $150,000 of debt and no job. Yes, if you chose poorly. Here we explore what you can control to get a better outcome for you while the pundits argue about policy and politics.

Buzz TodayThe Tuition is Too Damn High: Source: The Washington Post. “The Tuition is Too Damn High” is a 10 part series that ran in Wonkblog over two weeks exploring the causes and consequences of – and potential fixes for the skyrocketing costs of higher education. In spite of this general conclusion, the series concludes: “Why College is Still Worth It.” So does college raise incomes? Is it investment good enough to make widely accessible? Yes, it is. Period. Even the widely read Megan McArdle quotes James Heckman, the Nobel Prize – winning economist in Newsweek that “Even with these high prices, you’re finding a high return for individuals who are bright and motivated. If your not college ready, then the answer is no, it’s not worth it.”

The advice the experts quoted in Buzz Today here is wise advice consistent with what I am recommending to you. For you to avoid crushing student debt and end up unemployed you have to make good choices before you go back to school. It is only through these wise choices that you can earn a return on your education investment.

It seems like sound advice. The trick is “how do you do that?” Unfortunately the intense debate among the policy makers and the politicians (Is government aid actually making college more expensive?)  about the issues is of little help for the very personal choices you need to make today.

As Heckman, the Nobel Prize economist implies, you have to begin with yourself. In Your Future is Calling, I give you specific tools to do just that. For now, here are a few tips to take away from this post.

1. Make sure you have the motivation you need to do the work. Simply getting a piece of paper (a degree) is a fool’s goal. In the end, what you can do with you talent and skills from your education will determine your success. After the first interview for a job, nobody cares about the piece of paper (degree) hanging on your home office wall.

2. Do your homework. This means that you must know “who you are”. Once you know the important things about what you are good at and what motivates you (see Buzz Today), you need hard data on jobs and employment opportunities. Here I direct you to objective government data about jobs and income in the US economy. The site O*NET provides the data. Your Future is Calling shows you how to use this important data base to your personal advantage.

Start today. The choices are yours.