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College 101


What do you want right now? A nap? A cheeseburger? A break from reading about college finances?

Us, too.

But what do you in life? Very different question, right?

In Shmoop's opinion, there are three major things to consider when assessing your needs and wants regarding college and the money it costs to go:

1. Your family's income.

How much money does your family have? Are they able to send you to your dream school without blinking an eye? Can they contribute nothing, and will you have to make your own way?

2. Your own lifestyle requirements.

What do you want to do after you finish college? Do you want to own a house? Live in New York? Have a family? Travel the world?

3. Your financial goals post-graduation.

Do you want to graduate debt-free? Do you want to pay off your loans within five years? Do you not mind swimming in debt the rest of your life as long as you went to the school of your dreams?

It's important to think practically, but you also want to enjoy life. Life is short, after all. You might as well be happy. Just think about what floats your boat. Once you figure out your interests, it'll be easier to decide what you want to do. These interests are a starting point for what you might like to do for a career, and then you can Make a plan with Shmoop to get you there. But what if you only read gossip magazines or manga, or spend your days playing video games or on Facebook? What if the only thing you use newspaper for is to line your hamster's cage?

Calm down. Even those interests can be worked with, although it would have been easier if you just loved reading medical guides.  But we can still work with gossip and manga.

Where to start? There are lots of great resources out there, but it's best to begin with an understanding of what jobs intersect with your interests. What do you love working with on a high level: people, ideas, data, or things? Some jobs may work with just one of those, some may work with all, or a combination of two or three.

If you've never had a job, think about your school experience. Are you fascinated by the social grouping patterns in your high school lunch room? Did you flunk gym because you were too busy checking Kickstarter to kick a ball? Were you too busy engraving your new bookshelf to talk to the kid next to you in woodshop? In the hallways, do you look people in the eyes and does everyone know your name, or do you hug the lockers and try to go unnoticed?  

If you have had a job, what did you love about it and what did you hate? Did you hate having a boss or did you get along with everyone?  Did you enjoy your work with people more than stocking shelves? Could you sit at a computer all day crunching numbers?

This is important stuff, and it can help you decide if you work best with people, things, ideas, or data. Once you have a good idea of your answer, check out the World of Work map here and begin exploring some of the careers that fall in your interest areas.

Another way to go about this is to take advantage of the loads of interest surveys that are out there. They're all pretty similar, and will ask you a bunch of thinly veiled questions, each suggesting an aspect of a particular field or career. You will rank phrases like "Drive heavy machinery" and "Research a cure for a disease” as being "Very interesting" or "Shoot me in the head, please." Or something like that.

Take a few surveys and see what they say.  Remember, these will never tell you what you should do for a career, but rather some careers which may match your interests.  Here are a couple Shmoop faves:

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