With most students heading back to school this week, I want to share a post talking about my college experience and any advice I would have for incoming freshman. I’m definitely not qualified to dish out advice, but I can certainly reflect on my four years and discuss certain aspects I would have done differently, especially predicaments involving financials and long-term effects.
I understand that it’s not easy to make decisions regarding the future when you’re first starting off, everything appears to be more exciting than it actually is and you’re so focused on just living in the now. How do I know that? Because I disregarded any and all practical advice from recent graduates or people who actually did know better than myself. And if I could go back and listen I would because I often want to go back five years ago and shake my eighteen year old self and tell her that college isn’t just all about the partying and newly instated independence from your parents. So, I’ve compiled a list of things I would do differently in college if I were given the chance, and hopefully someone will listen.
If you live anywhere remotely close to your chosen university- LIVE AT HOME.
Although I loved living on campus and have so many great memories from doing so, I would also be significantly less debt now had I lived at home. I only lived 20 minutes from campus and chose to live there instead of driving there for class. Living at school definitely presents you with a different college experience, and I highly advise living there for at least your first year because that’s when you will meet most of your friends for the next four years, but if you have the ability to commute, do so, because once you graduate, you will be financially able to move out of your parents’ house. Now I am 23 still living at home because my student loans restrict me from doing otherwise. It’s probably time for me to start looking into my options. For instance, I could consider refinancing them with Earnest for one monthly payment at a lower interest rate.
Do an internship at least one summer during your college career.
I held two different internships during college, but neither of them took place during the summer. I was so focused on relaxing and having just mindless, part-time summer jobs that I waited until my senior year to have an internship, which I had to do during the semester, causing more stress on top of my already existing stress. Also, most summer internships that are full-time are usually paid so that’s a bonus! I would recommend doing it the summer going into junior year so that the following summer, predisposed at your “last” summer before the real world, can be yours for the taking. My friends and I lived at the beach that summer and I wouldn’t trade that for the world. It’s also incredibly crucial to have some type of internship experience when applying for jobs so keep that in mind!
If you have a meal plan, USE IT.
I know as well as the next person that cafeteria food isn’t always appealing or appetizing, but if you’re paying for a meal plan, you might as well get the most out of it and save your cash for other things besides eating out with your friends multiple times a week. Part of the reason I was always so low on cash during college was because my friends and I would decide to go off campus for dinner or lunch instead of swiping into the dining hall, or in later years, making food in our kitchen at the house. And trust me, I know the thought process of “It’s only $7” or “I get paid tomorrow so who cares” but once you start consistently thinking those things, the tab starts to add up and your checking account continues to diminish.
You do not need a new outfit every weekend.
I suppose this one more accurately applies to girls, but maybe not. Some weeks when Friday would roll around, my roommates and I would begin to think about what we would be wearing out that weekend and even between four full closets and over stuffed drawers, not one of us would be able to find an outfit acceptable enough to wear out. This resulted in a mall trip, usually ending in the swiping of our debit cards. Trust me, the black shirt you just purchased resembles the other 500 black shirts you already own.
If possible, get a part-time job.
I know that it isn’t always possible with heavy workloads during different semesters, but if you can, hold a part-time job during the school year. If you have to sacrifice a Friday or Saturday night for work, just do it. I promise that the frat party will be the same next weekend. You also don’t want to be that person who has mom and dad constantly wiring money to your account every week as an “allowance”, no one should be getting an allowance after the age of sixteen.
If you’re unsure about what to major in, go to community college first.
This might be my biggest regret. I went in as a History major, then to Communications, then into the School of Business until finally declaring Marketing my junior year. Although I believe I received a good education at my four year college, those first two years of taking gen eds could have been done at any school for a way lower price. So, if you’re undecided, take your early credits somewhere else and then transfer to a larger school!
GO TO CLASS.
I’m not saying I was a no-show to every class or someone who just showed up for the mid-term and final, but I definitely did my fair share of skipping. Attendance can so critically effect your grade, it’s scary. It doesn’t matter if you ace every test, project and assignment, you could still end up with a B in the class due to lack of attendance. I understand there are times where skipping is necessary, but try to stay under the allotted amount of skips allowed per semester.
Starting college is such an exciting time that is filled with so much opportunity you don’t even realize. But the decisions you make during your time there truly do effect you in the long run. How much effort you put into each class, how you spend your summers, where you live, how much money you borrow in financial aid, who you date, what you do on the weekends. Everything has a consequence, whether that be positive or negative, is up to you.