College is an exciting time, but it can sometimes be scary too. It’s daunting to make decisions now that will affect the rest of your life. Namely, what do I study now to be able to survive and thrive later on in life? While there are no set answers, there are tools to help students make well informed decisions about the future. Unfortunately, none of the tools have absolutely complete, accurate information so take anything learned with a grain of salt. They’re still helpful resources to help you predict and interpret your future, based on other graduates’ successes. If you’re overwhelmed at the mere thought of making life decisions, try using one of the following resources to help you get – and stay ahead, as listed by the New York Times.
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Capabilities:-Check out the earnings of recent graduates from more than 1,000 colleges -Sort data by region and type of school (public, private, party). -Look at the national median starting and/or midcareer salaries for 130 majors -Calculate the return on investment for colleges and/or majors
Pros:Since median mid-career salaries are available, students are able to get a more realistic measure of how degrees pay off in the long run, since many careers have lower starting salaries.
Cons:The reports do not include graduates who have advanced degrees or part-time students. Additionally, all data is report by Payscale users, which limits the diversity of the data.
CollegeMeasuresDid you know that Arkansas, Tennessee, Virginia, Colorado and Texas keep track of and post graduates’ first year earnings for all two and four year public institutions. Virginia and Colorado track private colleges, also.
Capabilities:-Check average earnings for majors, degree and certificate programs within qualifying states -Compare average earnings of different majors at a particular school -Gain an overview of which schools have graduates with higher salaries
Pros:The sites’ data is derived from state education and employment records, so it’s accurate. All public-school graduates are factored in, so everyone’s experiences are counted.
Cons:It’s not that helpful if you live outside of those states. It also does not calculate earnings from employment records outside of the state, so graduates who take a job in another state aren't accounted for. Self-employed graduates aren't included, either.
College Reality Check
Capabilities:-Compare earnings -Compare monthly payments on student loans -View graduation rates
Pro:You have the ability to compare data from up to five colleges at once. It’s also helpful to view the site’s graphics, like calculating loan payments long versus short term.
Con:Specific program information is not included and all earnings figures come from PayScale.
Understanding the Data-Look at different majors, rather than different colleges. Why? Jobs within the same field tend to have similar earning potential regardless of the school. -Pay attention to the same size of the data. Why? The larger the number, the more accurate the data provided. -Always assume you’ll be at the lower end of the earnings median spectrum. Why? It’s always better to under promise and over deliver, rather than banking on earnings you may not make.
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