I’ve been mentoring the same group of high school boys for four years. They are seniors now, and most of them are in the midst of receiving their college acceptance/rejection letters in the mail. At one of my recent Bible studies I asked the guys if they would be interested in doing a “college prep” night where I shared with them some insights on the college experience. Here’s what I’ve got so far to share…
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 at the time. Looking back I wish I would have considered going to a state school. 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 your local community college.
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 Introduction to Art. 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?
Don’t take out $100,000 in student loan debt to become a teacher. If you know exactly what you want to do with your life (teacher, socialist worker, nurse, etc) then you need to think about the average pay for that position and how much student loan debt you will have. Don’t be naive and take out $25,000 each year in loans, only to graduate and become a Kindergarten teacher who makes $35,000/year (if you even get a job right away). You will literally be in debt for just about ever, and probably doomed to live in your parents basement until your 40.
Here is a general rule I would use; the total amount of your student loans should be less than what you expect to make annually in your chosen profession. If that’s not the case, change schools or change majors.
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 according to Girl Ninja, my opinion means nothing.
I’d love for you to share a few MUST SHARE items that I need to address when I meet with these high school kids. What is something that your 18 year old self would have liked to know?