By Helene Naftali, Special for USDR
There has been a steady uptick of information for college students regarding majors that will lead to the most lucrative careers. But the reality is that most college students today are majoring in debt.
It is a problem that concerns me, as a college to career coach and author of a book directed at parents and students of college age. It also worries me as a parent of college age students, and as a trained psychotherapist and financial advisor. I had a real wake up call several years ago when I spoke to nearly 1000 college students at their career day. I had no idea how that experience would affect me, but my talk was so well received that it changed my life. I realized right then how important it was for me to help young people who were struggling so hard with decisions they would need to make about their future.
I am deeply troubled by the number of students – like my daughters and their friends – who are worried about debt. The statistics are startling. The average debt load for the class of 2012 was $29,400, according to the most recent report from the Institute for College Access & Success’ Project on Student Debt. It also found that student debt was up 63% in less than a decade, with 71% of students now in the hole. Nationally, outstanding student debt is above the trillion dollar mark, according the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. College debt is now the second highest form of consumer debt behind mortgages. And the default rate is threatening the economy.
The college debt crisis is crippling parents, too, because many are taking on that debt and supporting their children again because they can’t make it on their own. And of course, it’s crippling the students themselves because they are forced to take jobs just to earn a paycheck in careers that don’t match their degrees. The debt crisis is exacerbated by yet one more dizzying statistic. The Department of Education reports that most students take 5 to 6 years to earn an undergraduate degree. That translates into additional college costs.
I have a simple solution. I believe all students need to do some serious self-exploration before they sign up for college. In today’s world, high school students are out the door at 7:00 am, running to school, sports, and other programs. My own daughter often didn’t begin her homework until 8:00 pm and finish after 1:00 am. And let’s not forget the distractions of cell phones, computers and every other online activity. Today’s students are so “tuned out” that they haven’t “tuned in” to themselves. Many don’t have a clue about what makes them click. And they need to know.
That’s why I created the Own Your Zone Career Discovery Academy. The goal of the academy is to teach students “who” they are, and what makes them uniquely different and special, so they know how to select the right major and career. This isn’t the typical self-assessment test to determine a student’s interests and skills.
The new online course guides the student into exercises and activities – based on their unique experiences. It leads them – step by step – to discovering their passions, talents and calling, as well as the patterns and themes that define their lives. And most important, it helps them discover their “gift” which we define as the unique lens through which they see the world. Once all these parts of their lives intersect, they will “Own Their Zone,” so they can proceed into today’s challenging world with clarity and confidence, enhancing their opportunities for real success and happiness. The online course, which includes three separate one-on-one consultations with Own Your Zone staff, can be completed in 10-15 hours over the summer and is recommended for high school, college students and recent grads.
My goal isn’t just to stop the debt and stress that college students are facing. A new Gallup poll finds that only 39% of college grads are engaged in their jobs. The rest are not engaged or actively disengaged, and studies how they are less productive than those who are engaged and happy in their careers.
When you’re not happy with your profession, you take that unhappiness home and your chances of success diminish. It’s a vicious cycle. I am hoping that my course can help young people find out what makes them happy so they can lead more fulfilling and productive lives.
About Helene Naftali
Helene Naftali, CSW brings a compelling blend of experience to the subjects of self-exploration and career development. She is a financial advisor and senior vice president for a major financial firm as well as a psychotherapist. She is also the founder of oneTRUEzone, a coaching program for students, and author of Own Your Zone: What Students Need to Succeed from School to Career.
Helene gives motivational talks at educational and corporate settings. She holds a Bachelor’s degree from SUNY Binghamton University, and a Master’s Degree in Social Work from New York University. Helene, her husband and two daughters live in northern New Jersey.