Being that I am a semi recent college graduate (class of ’07), I figured I would throw in my two cents on the college experience, particularly in reference to one’s financial situation. I would say I had decent financial habits in college, but I was by no means perfect. Here are some “Do’s and Dont’s” to you get you through those four years unscathed…
Do look in to going to a public school. I made the decision to go private and man oh man did I pay for that choice. My school ran about $30k/yr, quite a bit different than the $5K-10k/yr public school options. Looking back I wish I would have considered going to the University of Washington. Heck, it’s probably a more prestigious school, and definitely better known, than my Alma mater. It’s okay though, I don’t regret my choice as I had the best four years of my life, but I SHOULD have explored public options more carefully.
Don’t drop out. Yeah that’s right. If you start college…finish. I can’t tell you how many kids I went to school with that didn’t come back after the first year. They paid $30K for that one year, and don’t have a degree to show for it. School can be hard, life happens, and money will be an issue, but you better do everything in your power to make sure you graduate from somewhere, even if it’s PDU (Punch Debt University).
Do work part time. I don’t care if you are working 5hrs/wk or 40hrs/wk, but try and make some money. I know, being a full time student can be stressful, but I bet part of that stress comes from being broke. You don’t need to be earning enough to contribute to a Roth IRA (although that would definitely be sexy), I just want you to be able to cover the majority of your personal expenses (food, clothes, school stuff, etc). It also will give you something to put on your resume come graduation time. Think about it, if you were on a hiring panel would you hire someone who graduated college with a 3.5 GPA and no work experience or someone with a 3.5 GPA who also had a job during those four years? I’m going with the latter.
Don’t use that fricken credit card you signed up for. Yeah, that’s right. I’ve been watching you. Some dude at a booth said “Hey fill out an application for this credit card and we will give you this frisbee” and you filled it out didn’t you…DIDN’T YOU!? I too took advantage of a “free shirt” offer, but I actually lied on the application and input all fake info (which I think is actually a crime, but I didn’t know it at the time). Fortunately, I never accumulated a credit card balance while in school and you need to do the same. This is a non-negotiable. Credit cards can not be the means by which you provide yourself food and textbooks.
Do get good grades. Sounds like a no brainer right? But are you really applying yourself in all of your classes. I sure didn’t. In fact I got an A in Organic Chemistry, but a B in Art 101. I picked and chose which classes I wanted to succeed in and where I was okay falling short. I wish I could go back in time and try just a little bit harder. When you graduate your GPA is going to be a huge bartering tool for you. Yes, your college GPA will become less important as you establish yourself in the work place, but until that time comes, it is your most valuable asset. If you graduated with honors don’t be shy about telling your prospective employers about it during an interview. It shows that you are dedicated to working hard and doing well.
Don’t grow up too fast. If you are the typical 20-something college student you have a responsibility requirement to act like it. Have fun. Pull stupid pranks on your dorm mates. Stay up really late and watch movies. Once you graduate college, you have to enter the 9-5 world, and let me tell you… it ain’t pretty. Midnight burrito runs are a thing of the past. Enjoy the college lifestyle.
Do take advantage of EVERYTHING your school has to offer. I was heavily involved in various college activities. Sporting events, clubs, organizations, all at your fingertip. There are so many FREE programs available to college students, you would have to be stupid to not take advantage of them. You aren’t stupid, are you?
So there ya have it, some of my thoughts on the college experience. Take them with a grain of salt as they are only my opinions, and last time I checked, my opinion meant nothing.
I’d love to get some more input on today’s post (especially if you are still in college)
1) For those in school, what year are you and where do you go?
2) For those that have graduated, any other Do’s or Dont’s you would add to the list?
3) Any other advice, support, or comments you would like to mention?