When I went to college I didn’t have all those little duckies in a row. As embarrassing as it is, it took me 6.5 years to earn a four-year degree. When I was a senior in high school, by about April is when I figured out what I would do. I scored low on my SAT’s so I didn’t have very many options. But that’s okay because my plan was to attend Columbia College in Chicago to attain a journalism degree. Yes, I had it all figured out. I would live at home, work as much as I can, and commute back and forth to the city for four years and get my Bachelor’s in Journalism. I had no idea what this degree or career was like, but I heard things and thought it’d be cool.

So as I attended Columbia for about two years, I started to grow weary and frustrated with my choice. I really didn’t know if that was the kind of career I wanted for the rest of my life!

So, guess what? After two-year at Columbia I decided not to return. I just left and didn’t really have a plan. I started at Eastern Illinois University, but that was when I found out that most of my credits did not transfer. I didn’t prepare enough. I just started at Eastern without any prior research. I just applied and went. No preparation. That was my problem. That’s why it took me 6 1/2 years to get a four-year degree.

Get your ducks in a row…

What’s worse is that I have a twin brother who graduated from college three years prior to me. Little embarrassing?  Sure was. But I’ve always been a  “late bloomer.” lol, I’m late to just about everything.

You might know someone who did this. Ask them why? Chances are they do it because they changed their minds in degree choice, or college choice.


Ignorance in the form of “not knowing” as its meaning here. When I went to college in 1989, I wanted a Journalism degree. I remember shopping at a Kmart (no Wal-Mart’s in the area then…I know, can you believe it?) and running into a friend’s mother. By this point as a graduated senior from high school, I made a decision to go into journalism and wasn’t really exercising any options. So as I told this to my friends mom, she had this happy look on her face like “Oh, how awesome!!” Sure I was feeling pretty good at that point as she praised the career of a Journalist and how cool it would be.

So yea, it sounded great at that time for me to be a newspaper reporter, or even television journalism. All I really allowed in my mind was that it was a “cool” career and would be exciting, and people would be impressed.

Sure those things are good, but eventually I started taking classes at Columbia College in Chicago. Loved the school, hated the degree.

Two years and a bunch of money later, I changed my mind and decided not to go into Journalism. So after two years, I left Columbia…but had no plan.


Have a plan. And then have a back up plan. Life happens and if you are not ready and have all the pieces of your puzzle together, then if life throws you that curve ball, all your ducks will waddle in all directions.

Make a list of your top 3 career choices and list why you choose them. Then make a list of your top 3 college choices.


Don’t pick a career because it pays a lot of money. You will make the money if you find something that fits your personality and talents. Don’t pick a college because its popular, or has a lot of parties. You’re in college…you will find the fun.

Think about what is important to you…

Make a list of everything that makes you happy when it comes to future jobs. Then rank them in importance. Find your skills, talents and how your personality should match with different careers.

Do the same thing with regard to college choice.

I didn’t do this…obviously. When I left Columbia I had absolutely NO plans about what my future entailed. I was clueless, and many of us are. It’s okay. Check the blog posts above to get some direction on what to do when choosing degrees and careers.

But, my problem was that I just didn’t have the plan. I didn’t make a list or think about other options in colleges and other potential degrees I could get.

I thought about nothing but what I wanted. I didn’t want to bother with all that, because I had other things to worry about…and thought I felt comfortable enough with what I chose. Well I was wrong. I went to two different colleges before getting a degree in Communications.

Now I’m a careers and college coach. Go figure. Experience pays.

Find your passion. It’s what defines you.

Your Success is My Success,

Keith Lipke

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Keith Lipke is a careers and college recruiter, coach, mentor and blogger at The Career Closet. His passion is to educate, inspire, and give hope to young people who need it upon their search for the right career and college.