With annual tuitions for two and four year public/private colleges ranging from $3,300 to $31,000 according The College Board, going to college is more than just a casual decision.   Add room and board to this number and you getting into serious money.

And when you multiply the total cost of attending a 4-year institution by four years, the investment can range between $80,000 and $160,000 just for tuition. That’s if you graduate in 4 years….most people don’t according to this report by ACT, a national college readiness organization.

This makes your college decision an investment decision that involves your time, and money. Given the high stakes, how can you make the most of your college education?

Here are three things to consider when thinking about your college investment:

  1. How well do you know yourself, your personality, skills, interests and talents? Most college counselors know that beyond declaring a major early, understanding who you are is one of the most important factors behind a successful college career. Knowing who you are and understanding the range of opportunities before you helps you make better decisions.
  1. How well do you understand the earning potential of the major/career you are interested in? All of the time and money you’re investing in your college degree should be weighed against the financial return you can expect for this investment. This isn’t to say that money per se should drive your decisions, but that you should be aware of the implications of the decisions you make.

This is especially true if you are going to be depending on student loans to finance college because you’re going to have to pay this money back somehow.

  1. Changing your mind is OK, so long as you have done your homework. College is about learning about yourself as much as learning about a major, and sometimes you need to change course (many students do). When you start to consider a change, it helps to start with personal insights to your personality, skills, interests and talents. This, in turn can suggest directions that are a better fit with who you are and where you are most likely to find satisfaction and success.

So where can you go to get this insight? You may have spent some time with your high school counselor as you prepared for college entrance requirements. Perhaps you took some assessments as part of the process. If you can, ask for copies of the assessment results as a starting point.

A better alternative might be Strengths for Success for Students.   This online tool contains the same personal assessments used by thousands of college and career counselors and links your unique personality type, skills, interests and talents to careers where people like you have been successful. In addition, you’ll find timely insight to education and training required for each career, along with earning potential for your state.

Strengths for Success for Students can help high school juniors just starting their college planning process; high school seniors trying to decide on a major and college students in the process of reassessing their chosen major. It can provide anyone a valuable foundation of personal insight from which you can make better informed decisions on one of life’s greatest investments…yourself.