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Expert Advice: Deans Share College and Career Search Tips for High School Seniors

Posted by Angie DiSalvo Thursday, Aug. 31, 2017

Registering for a Nebraska Methodist College visit day can help jump-start your college search.

When you’re a high school senior, it seems like everyone wants to tell you where to go to college or what job you should get.

Your grandpa says you should follow the family tradition and attend his alma mater. Your mom wants you to stay close to home for school and a career. Your friends want to do whatever they’re doing. And your brother just wants you gone already, so he can take over your room.

The five deans of Nebraska Methodist College know a thing or two about finding the right college and career. They have 16 college degrees between them and a wealth of professional and higher education experience too big to put into words or numbers.

So who better to share some unbiased, expert advice for starting your college search and knowing what career to pursue? Here’s what they have to say:

Advice for High School Seniors During the College Search Process

Jillian Sission, Dean of Professional Development & Community Partnerships

Find a place that feels like home. Don’t worry about where your friends or going or doing. Picking a college is a personal thing. Also, try before you buy. If they have a visit weekend, attend! Make sure you take a tour. Ask questions. This is a lot of money to spend, so you want to be happy.

Dean Manternach, Dean of Arts & Sciences

My advice would be to visit and choose a college that will challenge you and stretch your way of thinking! This may not be obvious to an incoming student or parent, but it is really important that you go to the college homepage to evaluate the college mission and values.  Is this the kind of place that you might wish to learn based on its mission and values?  Ask them about support services that help you become successful in the field of your interest. Ask them to tell you stories about some of their graduates and what different types of careers they have been able to obtain. Ask to speak with a faculty member who teaches in an area of interest. Look at the environment of the college. Is it located in a community that will provide basic things you expect, as well as provide new things to explore while going to college?

Will Roberts, Dean of Students

You need to be able to picture yourself spending time wherever you decide to go. When I went on campus visits, I learned a lot about the types of students who attended, the scholarships available and whether each school had the types of opportunities I was looking for.

Stephanie LaPuma, Dean of Health Professions

The most important thing that I believe a high school senior should look for in a college is if they fit. If they fit the culture, the mission and the overall degree programs that are offered at the college. Someone who went to small high school will have a difficult time assimilating to a large university. It is not about needing to be known as an individual, but the sheer size is simply too much. Going to college is a major life event that comes with many psychological hurdles, and if a student is overwhelmed by the size of a campus, I suggest looking elsewhere. I understand that students want a “college” experience, but it is not like the movies. College requires hard work and persistence to achieve your education goals. Also, because higher education is costly, it is critical that a student is able to fit in as their original self, which will make the experience memorable and very rewarding.      

Linda Hughes, Dean of Nursing

First, scan the college’s website for information regarding the program of interest. Then set up an intensive visit to the college to get to meet the admissions staff, advisors, professors and tour the facility. By attending a summer camp or a preview night, the student and parents can form questions that pertain to their own interests or needs, such as cost, length of time for a program and viability of a job upon graduation. By visiting the college, the student can see if the college atmosphere is right for them.


Advice for High School Seniors Who are Unsure of What Field of Study or Career They Want to Pursue

Stephanie LaPuma, Dean of Health Professions

The pressure that is put on students today to determine their path is intense. Often times, a student can feel adrift if they are not sure about a path, but I recommend that a student try to let that go and focus on taking courses that peak their interest. If science was interesting in high school, take science courses in college. If a student found math to be interesting in high school, take math. I believe that exploring content through structured courses and then engaging in outside research a student can find their path. Finally, it is important for a student to decide on their path without external pressures associated with family history or parental pressures. A student needs to be free to decide what they believe to be the optimal career. 

Will Roberts, Dean of Students

Think about what you’re good at and what you like to do. During my first semester of college, I got hooked on the field of psychology. Human behavior and mental health fascinated me. As I started my senior year, though, I realized I would need more education to get a job in anything directly related to my psychology major. I scoured through the Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook and found that counseling could be a good career path for me. I shadowed a counselor and this experience helped solidify my decision to pursue a master’s degree in counseling. Since then I have spent my career working for colleges to improve the experience of students and to ensure that they are connected to resources they need to be successful.

Linda Hughes, Dean of Nursing

If a student is unsure of a future career, a summer camp venue would be ideal in order to understand the future position. Job shadowing with permission of the facility is another way that the student could get a view of what reality looks like for a particular professional. If the student really is unsure about the choice of the future profession, then taking general educational credits in the arts and science that could easily transfer into a given program would be solid advice.

Jillian Sission, Dean of Professional Development & Community Partnerships

Try out certificate programs, volunteer opportunities or job shadowing on things that seem interesting. Again, finding a career is a person thing, so what works for your mom or dad might not be for you. Follow your heart and your passion. What classes sound INTERESTING to you? If you still don’t know, don’t panic. Remember, this is your journey; not anyone else’s. Be true to yourself, and you will find the right path.

Dean Manternach, Dean of Arts & Sciences

It is pretty difficult to know exactly what you want to do for the rest of your life when you are between the ages of 18-23. Most working adults today get to where they are by way of the experiences and relationships they build upon through their job history after college. I reiterate relationships. Choose a college that may have a related cluster of programs you are interested in pursuing. This means you will brush shoulders with students and others who share your interests. Take a variety of courses if it is possible to learn about those areas. Sometimes you cannot take professional courses, but you can set up appointments, get to know faculty in those areas and talk about the variety of career options that are open to you. Faculty want what is best for you. Get to know them! Ask questions! You can talk to more people than just the assigned advisor the college gives to you. 

Next Steps

We hope our deans were some help as you begin or continue your college and career search. Get started on your college and career search by registering for a personalized campus visit.New call-to-action

Topics: faculty spotlight, preparing for college

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