By Katie Black, Director of Student Recruitment at Clemson University
Careers in agriculture are extremely diverse and require a wide range of academic training. AgCareers.com can be a great resource to evaluate the type of jobs that fit your interests and the level of degree necessary for obtaining these positions. Once you’ve determined the degree needed, finding your collegiate fit amongst the offerings can be an even more daunting process.
College decision time can muster up all sorts of emotions, and it appears there are endless factors to weigh out in considering schools. Finances, academics, curriculum, research, scholarship, hands-on experiences, laboratories, faculty to student ratios, career resources, housing facilities, clubs, study abroad, return on investment, and on and on! Then, of course, there is getting accepted.
Having worked for over 10 years in recruiting agriculture students, I still don’t have all the answers, but I do think there are some simple key factors that determine best fit.
This conversation should start at the kitchen table and not wait until you’re sitting across from a college representative. Evaluate with your family what funds are available to pay for college as well as to what degree all parties are willing to acquire debt. Let scholarships sweeten the deal and remember that those can be lost if you don’t uphold your end of the bargain. Similar to other big purchases, don’t shop until you’ve set your budget.
A student’s emotional connection to a campus is the parameter I feel is the most important. For some students it may be about campus size, location, or distance from home. For another student, it may boil down to parking or the amenities in the dorm. Regardless, all of those factors tie into the bigger emotion that truly is about how you feel. Can you see yourself spending time on this campus? Can you image yourself sitting on that bench with a friend before class?
With fit Very simple, a student who is happy on campus and feels comfortable in their environment will find success in the classroom. Success in the classroom creates success outside of the classroom. Success outside of the classroom builds a compelling resume, diverse skillset, and a professional network. All of which equal employability.
To get started, sit down and decide what you’re looking for first. What must your college campus have? Once you have a few schools on your list, it’s time to load up and make visits! Take the campus tour, talk to students, and set up an appointment in advance to meet with someone in your academic area.
Academics + Engagement
Let’s first take academics. While there are certainly some specialties out there, this is where schools are fairly homogenous. Certainly bloggers and magazines have attempted to rank schools, but this is an area where you’ll find little difference within schools of the same category. You could easily find up to ten different names for an Agribusiness degree, and yet you’ll still find that the curricula are parallel.
As it relates to engagement, we aren’t talking here about your likeliness of getting hitched. Rather, engagement refers to what you’ll be doing when you aren’t in class. Clubs, activities, study-abroad, living-learning communities, research, internships, and career fairs are all examples of opportunities that allow you to become an engaged student. To an employer, all of these extras on your resume will be as important as your GPA. Again, you’ll find that schools within the same category will be following national trends and likely offering much of the same with these extras. Of course we will all boast about our unique programs, but these should only add to your enthusiasm about a campus and not be the one reason you keep a school on your list.
In the end, I truly believe that students are most successful at a school where the environment and social interactions are a fit first and foremost with the academics needing to be a close second in the consideration. Unfortunately, finances drive this conversation and you have to ensure you don’t set your hopes on a school out of your reach. With the diverse offerings in each state and across the nation, there are literally hundreds of schools a student can choose to study even if their interests are as focused as Turfgrass or Food Safety.
Check out all of the different agricultural schools and programs throughout North America on the AgCareers.com Education Directory.