Within weeks freshmen will begin to pour onto college campuses, each student brimming with excitement and promise. Each hopes this will be a time of growth and the start of something big. Statistically speaking, there is reason for students to pause; it may not be as easy as it looks. Some sources cite as many as 80% of students will switch their major at least once, and many will switch two or three times. Each switch can cost time and energy and is exacerbated when switching in the later years of college. According to the National Center for Educational Statistics, only 60% of first-time, full-time undergraduates will graduate in six years. Did you notice that these statistics use a six-year timeline to earn a four-year degree? Do your best to graduate in four years and your parents, your savings account, and your career will thank you. Though there are many factors that account for this huge attrition rate, the bottom line is that each student must prepare for success in order to beat the statistics.

One of the most powerful pieces of advice I can share with a student is to begin with the end in mind. There are two ways in which to prepare yourself for this amazing journey: get busy and visit the career services office. Begin with an understanding of your gifts and talents. The best way to do this is to dive into the discovery process which is based on the notion that it is not enough to just be busy while at school, but you must be busy with a purpose. To maximize your discovery process, immerse yourself in activities and experiences that expose you to new people, places, skills, and that push you out of your comfort zone. Being busy with a purpose will help challenge and or confirm your career pre-suppositions. (To learn more about the discovery process, read Hired ‘Right’ Out of College). Once you have begun to discover and confirm your gifts, strengths, and aptitudes, it is time to pay a visit to the career services office.

The career services office is one of the most important departments on campus for both students and recruiters. Sadly, most students won’t ever visit this important office until their junior or senior year. The outstanding professionals in this office are much more than experts who help you write a resume and schedule interviews. Their passion is to help you make wise career decisions, and they know that your career path begins during your freshman year. Your time and interactions with this office will grow more frequent and intense as you near graduation, but get to know this office in your freshman year. Start now and visit the career service website. Read through the pending events and familiarize yourself with the services they have available. Why not attend a, “how to write a resume” class during your first semester so that you know which activities and experiences you should be pursuing in the next four years so that your resume will be spectacular.

Another recommendation is to schedule a short meeting with a career counselor, introduce yourself, and ask what the most successful students do and how those successful students utilize career services. I have found that the best schools have excellent career service offices. When parents ask me how to choose a college, one of the first places I recommend them to evaluate is the career service office. If a college invests in their career service office, then they are investing in their students’ futures. Parents don’t want a college just to produce a smarter student they want a college that is going to help them cross the bridge from classes to careers. That is what a well-run career services office accomplishes, and that process begins by engaging students earlier in their college career.

If you want to succeed in college begin by understanding where you want to end up in four years; discover the career you were born to pursue. If your plan is to graduate and then figure it all out, you may very well end up like one of the statistics I spoke of earlier, but if your focus is clear, then your actions and activities will be guided by that vision. Next, take advantage of the many on-campus resources available to you. First, visit the career service website and then make plans to engage personally with the career services office. Follow these simple suggestions and you will be more focused and on your way to a successful graduation.