The majority of American adults regret their choices regarding college, according to a recent Gallup/Strada poll. If given the chance to do it all over, 51% of those who attended college would either pick a different school, choose a different area of study, or pursue a different type of degree. Maybe you know someone like this. Maybe you are this person!

For Millennials (those between 18-35 years of age) the results are even more surprising. One-third of the young people in that population wish they’d never even gone to college, primarily because of the significant debt they incurred and because their degree is unrelated to their current career aspirations. Half of Millenials say they would have advanced to where they are in their career without a college degree and would have been better off seeking a recognized industry credential or certification. Geez.

So is college useless? Of course not. And we are blessed to have so many wonderful post-secondary training provider options in the region: Maysville Community & Technical College, Northern Kentucky University, Centre College, Morehead State University, Kentucky Welding Institute, University of Kentucky, Georgetown College, Eastern Kentucky University. Centre College, Transylvania University…just to name a few. Each of these institutions delivers quality training in an array of disciplines and good educational experiences.

Then why are we so bad at picking the school and area of study that is right for us? There are a few possible explanations. One is that young people may be too focused on the social aspects of a traditional college experience and not focused enough on the educational aspects. As one University of Maryland graduate recently told Forbes, “I went to college because all my friends went to college.” Too much focus on fun, not enough focus on studies. Too worried about where friends are attending instead of picking the school best for future career intentions.

Another potential explanation might be that high school upperclassmen have no clue what they want to do with their lives! As our juniors and seniors approach the end of their required educational careers, many have never been exposed a workplace environment. Most have taken career inventory exams or talked to parents/teachers about jobs they might be good at, but that vast majority have never worked a minute in that field.

We need to do a better job of taking the guesswork out of career exploration. Think you might like to be a machinist? Pursue a pre-apprenticeship or internship in that area. Does a career in welding interest you? Ask a local machine shop if you can work there after school a couple days each week. Want to be a doctor or a physical therapist? Volunteer, take a tour, or explore a mentorship at a hospital or long-term care facility.

How do you know if you like something? You try it. You test-drive a car. You sample the ice cream. You date before you marry. Before committing to a college, career, or degree…give it a shot! Explore pre-apprenticeships, co-ops, mentorships, internships, volunteer opportunities. Test the water depth before you jump in. Your job satisfaction and financial future are worth it.

By Jeremy Faulkner, The Ledger Independent / This column was originally posted at