Career Services Play A Role In Avoiding College Debt… Here’s How

This article on One Simple Step To Avoid College Debt was originally published in June 2021.  All relevant statistics and content have been updated as of October 2021.

In 2021, college students are taking out massive amounts of debt to pay for their education. Together Americans owe $1.73 trillion in student debt.  While there are many contributing factors to why this happens, you, as a Career Services Hero, are a unique part of the solution. 

Our studies show that when learners have a clear and direct "line of sight" to their career life after graduation, they perform better in school.  These performance statistics include better engagement and retention within their program, confidence in their educational choice, and higher grade point averages.

As it relates to the costs of education, the most compelling thing students will report is, "Knowing where I  will find my career fit helped me organize and plan my education to be efficient and effective after I graduated."  Career services play a critical part in helping students choose their life path and thus the right pathway of education to get there. 

It is essential that students know their passions and equate them to a sense of purpose and meaning before choosing a college major. 

This way, you will be sure that they are not suffering to find their career or suffering through something that is not optimal for them. Having students take the right type of self-discovery assessments and connecting them with a career-exploration tool allows them to start on the right path and concentrate on what they should do rather than what someone told them to do.

This self-discovery is a critical yet often overlooked step in the process when helping students choose a college major.  Given the new world of work, providing a clear sense of where a graduate will find their deepest sense of meaning, purpose, and career fit will not only save them money and time but create happy alumni, bolster your educational brand and create lifelong learners.  

Did you know Americans owe $1.73 trillion in college debt? It doesn't have to be this way. But, career services can help! Learn how here:Click to Tweet

Meeting With Students As A Freshman 

Many students are eager to get into college, but they have no idea what to major in. Then they spend their time and money on an undeclared major with no sense of direction. Others will choose a major and then decide later in their educational journey it is not for them. 80% of college students change their major at least once. Students need better direction and guidance when it comes to choosing a major. 

Meet with freshmen and talk about what they like to do and see if there's a major that goes along with this. That way, you can help them make informed decisions on what they want to do for the remainder of their college journey. Not only will it save time and money, but it will give them much-needed clarity.

Meeting with students as a freshman can give them a sense of direction on where they want to go. Most students wait until they are a junior or senior to visit their campus career center.

By this time, they are deep into their degree paths, making it harder to switch majors if they desire to. It's also harder for them to find an internship that they can put on their resume to attract potential employers. 

You want students to come in as early as possible. Your services are best leveraged when students have more flexibility in their academic journeys, which is at the start.


Try meeting with first-year students new to your institution to make the most significant impact on cutting down on college debt.  In doing so, they have time to find their true passion or discover what direction suits them best. 

Meeting with students as a freshman allows you to tell the student directly what your program can offer them and what they need to do to be able to take full advantage of it.

Some examples might include: telling students they must cut down on social activities if they want to be successful or mentioning how many students are getting internships by having a certain GPA. This way the student is aware of what needs to be done in order for them to achieve their goals and they know that the career center is here to help them succeed. Provide them with resources, which can help ease their journey. 

Assessing Student Interests 

An easy and simple step you can take is to assess students' interests as soon as possible in the enrollment process. This way, it can help them make more informed decisions on what they want to do in the future and how this relates to their degree path.

For example, if a student does not like math but is enrolled in an engineering major that requires advanced mathematics, they can change their degree path or take the necessary steps to succeed in this area.

Beyond surveying interests, it's possible to provide students with additional assessments that will help them discover even more about themselves, what they may be impassioned by doing and where they will find meaning and purpose in the work. Not only will this save them time and money but it will also give them clarity on what they wish to do for the rest of their lives.

Assessing student interests before they even get to college can allow students to choose a major that they love and not just pick one because of the money. For example, if a student enjoys doing certain activities outside of school or something that is already on their resume, you can help them find a degree path that will allow them to have those hobbies as part of their everyday lives. This saves them from having to sacrifice their true desires for a major that they may end up hating or not using in the future.

What Are Their Interests? 

Helping students know their interest is key to avoiding college debt. Knowing what their interest is in certain subjects can help shape what path they take. Narrowing down their interests to a few options and career paths can help save them money. 

This will help the students research and see what is available to them. Students should have space to explore their options and think about what they want to do with their life.  They shouldn't feel rushed to choose a major because of their degree path. 

For example, if they pick an engineering major, but after one year realize that it is not what they were expecting and that this career is not for them, then the student will have wasted four years of time and $80,000 on attending school just to get a degree they don't want to use. If they do not choose the major that most interests them, this will lead to higher college debt than necessary since it can take longer for students to complete their education with a less determined purpose.

Students should be given time to explore what they enjoy doing or what they are interested in. They should not feel pressured to choose a certain degree path because it seems more popular or because that's what their friends are doing. This can be difficult for some students because they might want to please their parents or the people around them but this is something they have to think about themselves and determine if this is really what will make them happy when they are in college and for the rest of their lives.

Additionally, this will ensure they are engaging with the path they take. When engaging with their path, they are more likely to stay on track. When they are on track, they are not going into more debt. This may also help them stay in school and not drop out feeling lost and hopeless. Finding their interest can help students stay in school and take out fewer loans. 

Finding Their Purpose

Picking a career path that best suits the student will aid in helping them diminish their school debt. Finding their purpose is different from their passion. Interest makes someone engage with something they like. Passion is the why behind the interest, why they are pursuing their degree program. It is so important for students to find their purpose because they need to know why their degree is a great fit in directing them to a career they will enjoy. 

Without that why, it will be hard for them to stay engaged with the path they are taking.


Once students choose a degree path that is not in alignment with interests, this can lead to very negative feelings within them which can make them feel depressed and anxious. This could cause many problems in their mental health which will only add up to more college debt. Also, they will not be engaged with their work and this can cause them to lose focus and not do as well in school.

If students don't know why they are taking a certain degree path then it will be harder for them to stay focused and on track. Once students find the right career path and choose a major that aligns with their interests, this can bring them more peace and may even make them feel more excited to be in class.

Students should leave college knowing why they chose their major and find a career path that best suits them. If they do not know why they are on this degree path, then they will most likely end up changing it anyway for another one. This can be a waste of time, money, and resources.

Even though students should make their own decision, parents can help guide them on what will benefit them most in life. It is good for both parents and students to have open communication about what they are interested in so that the degree path selection is more appropriate.

It is important for students to enjoy their degree path because this can affect them mentally and physically which will lead to the student being engaged with their work. This also helps prevent school debt or college loans if they are heading down a certain career path that interests them.

Students should leave college knowing why they chose their major and find a career path that best suits them. This will help them avoid wasting time, money, and resources. See how @JobZology can help here: Click to Tweet

Purpose is different from interest because interest makes people engage with something they are interested in while  Purpose is the "why" behind that interest. For example, one may be interested in dance but his or her passion may come from performing on stage to an audience. This will make them more engaged with dance and be able to do it for a longer period of time.

If students find their interest and passion in something, it can make them more engaged with their work which will help them reduce school debt. This may also prevent them from dropping out because they know the reason why they are on this degree path. Once they graduate college, they can use this knowledge to get a job in their field of expertise which in return can help them pay off student loans.

Although students should make their own decisions, it is good for parents to be more involved with helping their child find their interests and passion because they are an influential factor when they are deciding what degree path to take. When this decision is made, it is important for students to remember why they chose their major and be engaged with work because this can prevent school loan debt.

DYK? Around 26% of all degree holders would change majors to pursue their passion.

PathwayU helps career service departments meet the demands of the modern student and solve many of the challenges you have at the institutional level.  Using PathwayU's scientifically-based self-discovery and career exploration platform empowers you to ensure your students are on track to graduating on time and avoiding a ton of college debt.

Mounting student debt does not need to be the norm anymore. There are many ways and tools, such as PathwayU's assessment, that will aid students in finding and pursuing their purpose. As a career service advisor, you play a role in lowering student debt and increasing student success.