There's a disturbing trend in America and it's causing soon to be high school graduates to question whether college truly is the key to finding success in a difficult job market. A recent report by the Associated Press found that one out of every two college graduates is either unemployed or underemployed, often working in a field that isn't related to their degree. This, along with the student loan debt topping $1 trillion, is causing graduates to find themselves with low-paying jobs that make them no better off than if they hadn't gone to college at all.

According to economists, college is still the best way to land the higher-paying jobs, but no longer is the act of attending college the key to success. Making the wrong decisions before entering college can hurt your chances of putting your degree to work later on.

Have a Plan
It used to be OK to head to college now and figure out a degree later. According to MyMajor.com, 80% of students entering college hadn't picked a major and 50% will change their major while in college. With rising college tuition and students spending more time in college, they are amassing more debt which translates into higher payments upon graduation. Harvard economist Richard Freeman advises students who are undecided about their future plans to find a job after high school until they decide what they want to study instead of heading to college without a clear plan.

Don't Follow Your Passion
Mark Cuban, entrepreneur and star of the hit television series Shark Tank, advises people not to follow their passion. According to Cuban, we have a lot of passions in our life, but most won't translate into successful careers. Instead, he advises to follow our effort. Look at how you spend your time. Whatever you spend the most time doing may be your perfect career. When we spend time with something, we gain a lot of skill which makes us an expert in that field and being an expert translates to career success.

Create a Barrier
Pursuing a profession that requires a specialized degree creates a barrier to entry. Fields like medicine, education, law and accounting require that you have a degree in order to gain the certification needed to apply for those jobs. Other careers, like the arts, many business jobs and sports management, have collegiate degree programs, but they aren't required to work in the field making the amount of eligible people much higher.

Check BLS
The Bureau of Labor Statistics' website has detailed information about most career paths including average salary and the amount of people needed in those careers in the future. If you're considering more than one degree path, choose one that will have a large need for workers in the future. Fields that have a saturated market not only make it harder to find a job, but the salary may also go down due to the oversupply of workers willing to work for less.

Reduce Your Debt
There are plenty of ways to reduce college debt. Go to a state college if appropriate for your field. You can live at home instead of paying the high price of campus housing, purchase used books, work a part time job if your degree program allows or take summer classes to reduce the amount of time you're in school.

The Bottom Line
Although the college years are still full of fun and great memories for many, making the most of your college education is essential to having the best chances of finding the job you dreamed of having. Remember, the sooner you get out of college, the sooner you will earn money instead of building up more debt.

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