The 3 Biggest Financial Regrets of College Graduates and How to Avoid Them

by Jeremy Anderberg on August 6, 2013 · 56 comments

in Money & Career

grad

This fall there will be over 20 million students heading to college, either returning from summer break or arriving for the first time. If you’re one of those first-timers, you’re probably pretty excited and thinking a lot about making new friends, living in a dorm, going to parties, and what your classes will be like. You’re likely not, however, doing a whole lot of thinking about how much college will cost you.

Four years from now, when you’re going through the door in the opposite direction, your perspective will probably have changed. Two-thirds of all graduates will accumulate some kind of debt during school — whether that be student loans or credit card debt. And for some reason, male students will accrue more debt than their female peers; men average around $30k in student loans (compared to $23k for women) and nearly twice the non-loan debt (like credit cards) of their female counterparts ($18k to $9k). When you’re staring down that debt in your cap and gown, you may look back and wish you had done some things differently.

When over 500 recent graduates were surveyed by Accounting Principals, they reported 3 big financial regrets about their college career (read the full report):

  • They wish they had more actively pursued scholarships and financial aid.
  • They wish they had pursued a different major that had more realistic job prospects and a higher starting salary.
  • They wish they had gotten a job while in college and had started saving money earlier.

If you’re just beginning college, or even in the middle of it, you have the advantage of taking steps to address these potential future regrets now, instead of lamenting what you wish you had known as a frosh as you pull away from campus for the last time. Here’s how.

1. Actively Pursue Scholarships

The biggest thing you can do to help yourself in the financial realm while being a student is work your butt off for scholarships and grants. Financial aid can mean many different things: student loans, income-based grants, etc. Most students/parents will stop after filling out an application and the FAFSA, and cross their fingers that some money comes. Scholarships and grants based on academics and other pursuits, however, are where you can really shine and are vastly underutilized. Those based on academics are fairly straightforward. The better grades you get, the better chance you have of receiving them. Many schools have built-in scholarships for students with a certain GPA. (Don’t stop looking once you’re in school — some of my biggest scholarships came my last two years when my GPA was highest.) Those are a clear example of how your hard work in college can directly pay off to monetary rewards.

The other avenue, however, is looking for scholarships is less orthodox places. Consider the following:

  • Parents’ Employer: Many larger companies/organizations offer scholarships for students of their employees. If not general scholarships, there are companies that offer a child a scholarship if they pursue an education in the same industry the company operates in. Ask your parents to do some research, and they could even work with their company to start a scholarship fund if one does not yet exist.
  • School Networks: You are probably already filling out forms for scholarships offered by your high school. If you aren’t doing that, you need to. The next place to look, however, is local alumni groups of the college you’re looking at. Many times you’ll find a few wealthy alums who offer scholarships to a few students per year, and this is another area where you can get specific scholarships as well. I received a scholarship from an alum that was to go to a journalism student with a GPA of 3.0 or above. So do some digging with alumni groups in your area and you won’t be disappointed.
  • Community Organizations: Many of your local non-profits or service organizations will offer scholarships to students. First, ask your parents what sort of clubs or non-profits they might be involved with, and if there are any scholarships to be had. Next, look to the well-known organizations out there like Rotary Club, Goodwill, etc. To up your chances even higher, if you find out an organization offers a scholarship, do some volunteering for them! It’s a win-win; you get to help your community, and have a chance at getting some help with your tuition.
  • Religious Organizations: Many faith-based groups will offer scholarships to those who share that faith. The Knights of Columbus is one such group for Catholic folks, and Hillel.org (a nationwide campus group) can point out opportunities for the Jewish community. Do some research and find out if your specific religious affiliation may offer you scholarship opportunities.
  • Field of Study: If you have a fairly good idea of what you want to study in school, you may have a leg up on scholarships over those who are undecided. There are various major-based scholarships out there, as I’ve alluded to above. Your school may be the biggest source of information for you, but also just do a Google search for your major + “scholarships.” Scholarships.com also offers a robust search function for various majors. Know that if you switch majors, you probably won’t be able to keep this type of scholarship, but if nothing else, you’ve gotten some help for one or two years worth of schooling.
  • Campus Organizations: Many on-campus organizations, especially those with larger, nationwide presences, will offer scholarships to folks pursuing related degrees. Foreign language clubs, religious groups (like Hillel), business associations (AMA, PRSSA), and many more are good places to look.
  • Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC). You may be familiar with the ROTC program, and it’s a great option for students interested in the military. ROTC members attend college like other students, but also receive basic military training and officer training for their chosen branch of service (minus the Coast Guard). The students participate in regular drills during the school year, and extended training activities during the summer. Depending on your branch of service and type of scholarship/program you’re in, you’ll then be required to serve for between three and eight years after you graduate. The Army ROTC program is by far the largest, and pays for all four years of tuition. You can also join the program later and have your remaining years paid for.

There are no shortage of scholarship opportunities available to those who pursue them. The key is to fill out as many applications as possible. You’ll get a lot of rejections, but the few you are awarded will make a big difference. It’s a pain writing essay after essay and filling out form after form, but the literal payoff is well worth it.

Also don’t get into the mindset that any scholarship is too small. For some reason, in school I always thought that $250 or $500 scholarships weren’t worth my time. In reality, they could have paid for books, flights home, food for a month or two, etc. Don’t ignore any of the opportunities for cash that are out there!

2. Consider a Field of Study with High Job Placement and/or High Salary

Admittedly, this is a tricky subject. Going to school to study for a high-paying, in-demand job probably isn’t the best idea if you’re not actually interested in that line of work. You may end up being totally miserable, and that’s just not worth it, even if the pay is great. The key is to find a balance between your interests and your realistic job prospects. My own path may serve as a small case study.

When I first started applying to colleges, I was pretty sure I wanted to be a pharmacist. This was for several reasons, none of which had much to do with actual interest in the job. It seemed fairly easy (my high school self was sure it was about sitting behind a counter and counting pills), very high paying, and had a job placement rate at the time of well over 100%. Win-win-win, right? Turns out, I struggled mightily with chemistry my senior year of high school, and I realized I didn’t actually want to be a pharmacist.

Even though the job prospects were great for pharmacy, I simply wouldn’t have been happy with the profession. So, I switched to studying public relations, which at my school was a combination of business and journalism. Every company in the world has public relations people, and it was about average in terms of starting salary, so it seemed like a wise choice. I didn’t love the actual work, necessarily, but I liked it well enough.

At the same time, I was very interested in religious studies, and had considered switching to that. I had to look at reality, though. The job prospects of a religious studies degree are incredibly limited. You’re either a professor, scholar, or some combination of the two. That’s about it. You have to consider your life goals and if what you’re studying will line up with that. Even at 19, I knew that family was going to be very important to me, and that I would want to provide financially when that time came. I also knew I didn’t want to go through the multiple post-grad years of getting the PhD that is often required for being a college professor. To top it off, I wanted to be able to work in a city of my choosing – whereas with professorships, you often go where the job is.

So, I stayed the course in public relations, and added in religious studies classes when I could. Sure enough, my PR degree is what got me through my first few years after college, and eventually led to me being able to do something I truly love — this job with the Art of Manliness. This end result is not something I could have foreseen when I signed up for a PR degree. But, through some hard work and extra hours put in after a day job I didn’t love (but paid the bills), I ended up exactly where I wanted.

If your degree doesn’t have great prospects for a career (poetry, history, philosophy, etc.), consider getting an education certificate to teach, for example. Or, get a business or IT degree and take the classes your really enjoy when you can, like I did. You’ll be in better position for a job after college, and if nothing else, you can save up for a few years and then strike out to do what you really love. You don’t want to sell out, but take some time to really think about what you’re studying, and make sure that your life goals and values line up with that.

3. Get a Job and Start Saving

Obviously, tuition is going to be the biggest chunk of expenses while you’re in college. There are a million other small expenses as well, however — things that you simply often need cash for. This can include rent, gas, parking passes, your morning coffee, and being able to take your girlfriend out on a nice date every once in a while. Your living expenses have to come from somewhere, and funding them completely through loans or parents just isn’t a good idea. A mature man is a self-reliant man.

To defray the costs of your living expenses (and get an education in the principles of budgeting and saving as well), strongly consider getting a job while you are in school. It’s fairly easy to get jobs on campus for those who seek them out. These are great options because your employer is sure to work around your class schedule and you’ll often have the convenience of not having a commute. The reality is that there aren’t many jobs on campus that are downright fun. There are concessions for sporting events, calling alumni to ask for donations, kitchen duty in the cafeteria, etc. These probably won’t be fulfilling, but being able to impress your gal with a nice dinner and a movie (and being able to pay for the gas) is well worth it.

I would recommend that you consider being a Resident Assistant. I did it for my final two years of college, and even though I didn’t love the job, I got my own room in the dorms (for free) and got my meal plan covered as well. That ended up saving me around $7,000 per year. Many colleges will give a monthly stipend in addition to room and board. It’s about as well-paying as you could ask for as a student.

You may object that you don’t have time for a job, but in all likelihood, you do. Think of all the time you spend on video games, or how much time you waste on Facebook during your study hours. Taking on a job for even just a few hours a week may actually make those study times more effective because you truly have to get it done in that time allotted. Start with a small amount of hours, and build up to however many you can handle. Know that your school comes first, and if that starts to slip, cut down on your hours. Every little bit helps, so don’t think that just a few hours a week is too few.

Below are some additional money-saving tips so you can get some extra green into your bank account:

  • Start a side hustle. Use some of your weekend time to professionally hone some of the skills you’re learning at school. If you dream of being your own boss, start experimenting with entrepreneurship now.
  • Create a budget for yourself, and the hard part — stick to it.
  • Follow Ben Franklin’s advice.
  • Buy used books. Amazon Marketplace is a gold mine for cheap, used textbooks, and then you can re-sell them yourself when you are done.
  • Consider not getting a meal plan and cooking for yourself.
  • Do you really need a car? Not only is gas expensive, but parking passes are often a killer. Public transportation, if not provided directly by your school, is often free or discounted for students.
  • Set up a checking account if you don’t have one already. You’ll be able to track your expenses and actually see your money coming in and out, a great motivator to save more.
  • Take advantage of student discounts. In college towns, student discounts can be had everywhere. From theaters, to restaurants, to department stores, people want to help out college students. Let them, and ask about student discounts everywhere you go.
  • Skip the $5 latte and start drinking black coffee. I did this my sophomore year when I was running out of money, and now I much prefer drip coffee to any other drink. A tub of Folgers will last a month for the price of your fancy Starbucks drink.
  • Thrift stores are the college student’s best friend. If you look closely and are patient, you can get some nice clothes — maybe even your first interview suit.
  • Daily deals sites (Groupon, LivingSocial) are a goldmine for date nights. Have a night out for half the price. Or consider these cheap date nights.
  • There are many, many more things you can do to save some moolah. Read up!

Implementing the tips above will help you not be one of those students who has financial regrets once you graduate. You absolutely want to have fun in college, and learn and have new experiences, but that needs to be steeped in some measure of reality. To not do so is setting yourself up for a long learning curve — and probably a painful one — once that diploma is in hand.

What did you do, or are doing right now during college to set yourself up for financial success after graduation?

{ 56 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Dillion August 6, 2013 at 9:29 pm

DO NOT listen to a counselor when they say which fields have high job placement. Even if they aren’t lying just to get a sale who knows what the market will be like when you do graduate. Do the research yourself.

2 Glen August 6, 2013 at 9:40 pm

I was fortunate enough that my grandparents started a fund when I was born and it was well valued when I was ready for college. Nevertheless, I turned down an acceptance to a more expensive college and went in-state. This was especially important as universities have recently brought up tuition, and my other choice university had several reactive protests which I did not have to participate in. In addition I took a paid internship in my study at the start of my sophomore year (which was also very fortunate, not always common). My friends were often self-supporting and especially thrifty, discouraging me from bad habits. My degree also had high-security and comfortable wages, even with a poor economy.

I have come out as good as many are bad thanks to my grandparents, but I have also been putting my own wages towards retirement (!!!) and owning a small residence (its value is even rising). Currently I am sitting on my funds while I work and save. I have no big spending plans now and I hope to keep it that way until it is actually necessary!

3 LanceR. August 6, 2013 at 9:50 pm

What a great article. I’m in college and I’ve been doing most of what has been written on the list.

I made extra money selling on ebay, my website, and money lending; enough to provide me free meal per day by profit.

Scholarship also payed 100% of my books and course requirements; and one special scholarship I got gave me an allowance of $4,000 to do whatever (which I moved $2,000 for my savings).

Most of the scholarship I’ve won are non-transferable though, so I plan to apply like a madman for scholarships again once I transfer. (my non-transferable scholarship is so high that I bought everything new {books}, because when I transfer, that money is going to the school anyways) might as well. Btw JUST APPLY FOR SCHOLARSHIP. I thought there was no way in hell I was going to win but I managed to win 2 high-paying scholarship.

On my current job, I have 25% from my paycheck transfer to my retirement fund and managed to reach around $1,000 already. (Do you think 25% is too high?)

Btw having a car is very costy imo. If I can, I would just bike to school. But carrying a crapload of stuff and biking 14 miles back and forth became tedious for me. Bike = save a lot of money.

The problem I have found out though is that I eat out too much; I definitely need to learn how to cook :\. Any recommendations on how to learn to start cooking? My parents are great but limited at cooking.

Fantastic article.

4 Dale Melchin August 6, 2013 at 10:07 pm

I know this place is a melting pot of religious and philosophical positions, but I’m going to recommend this.

Even when you are young find out what your calling is. Some of this will be fairly psychological. Take assessments, personality tests and the like to get a sense of how you are.

After that, do this. Get alone into a meditative state. Let go everything you want and everything you think you want. When you do this your calling will become evident you. This may take a few times, but it will become evident you. I recommend you make final decisions based on this.

I found my calling this way. It may work for you.

5 Nicholas August 6, 2013 at 10:12 pm

Hi Jeremy,

I want to ask about your point #2. My original passion is in Mathematics, but growing up in a third-world country, my parents told me not to study it in university. Well, it is very theoretical, and the job is scarce there. The general perception there is that Math graduates commonly “only” become teachers. Even when I wanted to study Computer Science (CS), my second passion, they a bit hesitated since they thought the field was too narrow. So I ended up studying Electrical Engineering (EE), since the graduates are seen to have more demands in the market. However, as now I am doing Ph.D. in CS (in another country), with a research topic which seems to require a certain level of Mathematical background, the subjects which I studied for Bachelor degree, apart from a few CS subjects, have little to do with my research. In the first few years of my Ph.D., I was very frustrated since I was lacking the necessary background, and I felt inferior to other students who graduated from top universities abroad.

Nowadays, I still find myself wondering whether that (studying EE) was actually a correct choice, and that I can tell high school students I meet to balance their not-so-popular passions with market demands. Admittedly, it is often the case that when you were young, you don’t really know what you want to do in your life (while being a scientist is my childhood dream, I didn’t think of attending a grad school until the last few years of undergraduate study, partly because we were not that well-informed about it), and it is still very risky (you have to get a very high GPA in order to be accepted in grad schools overseas, otherwise you may end up doing jobs which you don’t actually like), but looking at the current situation, I sometimes still blame the past me for being not persistent enough to get a Math or pure CS degree. Useless, I know, but these thoughts still haunt me at some nights. At least now I know the bigger picture and I have some plans about that.

6 Evan Jones August 6, 2013 at 10:24 pm

I can vouch for the extra job while being a student. I had lackluster grades for the longest time (six years of undergrad studies), doing well in some and horrible in other classes, probably because I wasted most of my time playing computer games. My final spring semester I got a lifeguarding job opening the local YMCA pool at 5am, 4 days a week, and for the first time in my life I had a semester grade of 3.5 and made the dean’s list. Work focuses me by taking away all the free time I have to waste instead of studying, and most people I know are the same way.

7 Andrew August 6, 2013 at 10:39 pm

@LanceR Take a look at mealime.com . Sign up for their free (2 recipes per week) program. You don’t get the extras the larger plans offer, but after a few weeks you’ll have a decent set of recipes to fall back on (even if you don’t like them all — I know I don’t)

They are all designed for one person, but you cook twice as much as you need, eat half for supper, the other half becomes lunch the following day. It’s pretty neat imo.

8 Jim August 6, 2013 at 10:40 pm

What a great and timely post. Thanks for sharing your thoughts here.

I am in the midst of a PhD program in the field of History. I am hoping to go the route of becoming a professor or to work in academic administration. I have been thinking and writing lately about how a PhD can be a successful financial vehicle over at my blog, http://makingcentsofaphd.blogspot.com and mostly I think it comes down to living thoughtfully, consuming carefully, working hard, saving as much as possible, and investing wisely.

In any case, I appreciate your thoughts greatly and the nuance you bring to choosing a practical major while also pursuing courses that interest you. In retrospect, I wish I would have picked up a more “practical” minor on top of my history major, perhaps a minor in adminstration or personal finance.

But I also don’t think you should sell your passion short, so long as you are not going greatly into debt to finance your education. If you can get enough scholarships, I say utilize those four years of learning and pursue what interests and inspires you, not what may pay big but suck away at your soul. Furthermore, you don’t have to necessarily become an engineer, doctor, or businessman to make a good salary. There are plenty of options out there, such as in the trades, that involve apprenticeships or where the skills can be picked up during summer jobs. For instance, why not pursue a Religious Studies major while working with a plumber or carpenter during the summer?

9 Pat August 7, 2013 at 12:10 am

Glad to see I’ve been doing the right things! I work 25 hours/week while at school, 40-65 while on summer break, don’t spend money on anything unless I need it, commute by bike, etc.

Here are a couple of big money savers that aren’t on the list:
1. Live off campus. While I think it’s important to have the experience of being on campus for the first couple of years, I found that it was much more affordable to rent a place with my friends off campus and bike to class. Rules are different at every university about this, but if you have the option of moving off campus you’ll also likely ditch the meal plan too.
2. Don’t drink (coffee or alcohol). Ok, let’s be honest… it’s completely unreasonable to think that this is common practice for college students. I’ve never been a fan of coffee, and I didn’t drink until I was of legal age at 21. Even now, I don’t go out to the bars often because those bar tabs add up quickly. When I do go out, I leave the debit card at home and only bring a certain amount of cash for the night.

10 Geoff August 7, 2013 at 12:15 am

I am a recent graduate myself, Class of 2012. I HIGHLY recommend doing #2 and taken #3 into legitimate consideration. If you’re an average white guy like me– it IS going to be rough getting scholarships without being “exceptional” in some way. Period. So #1…eh.

Let me explain. Sure it feels good to sleep in every Saturday and loaf around in the afternoon between classes, but its does come at a price. Do yourself a favor by creating some Identity Capital through making connections and creating a work history. Doesn’t matter if it’s even just at the local gas station. Just do something other than video games. You will thank yourself for having practical skills to put on your resume at graduation.

Second, sure Anthropology or Philosophy may be interesting, but these majors certainly do not fast-track one into a specific, lucrative career. Liberal Art colleges will argue these degrees “make you more employable” by developing you into a more “well-rounded” person. This may be true in the long run, but nearly every company/government organization I’ve experienced or worked with simply wants someone who can produce revenue immediately. What matters is if you can ultimately generate money. We live in a ultra-capitalistic society and there are few ways around this without government hand-outs.
So if you want to contemplate why the sky is blue, go for it. Just make sure you have a solid, sure-fire plan to go with it… i.e. the Military, Graduate school, Rich Uncle, etc.

In sum, college is not a joke even though it gets treated like it.

I found this link through Brett; please watch. This woman does an excellent job of explaining the importance of life for a twenty-something.

http://www.ted.com/talks/meg_jay_why_30_is_not_the_new_20.html

In the end, you reap what you sow. I don’t claim to know it all, just my opinion after spending my own time completing a degree.

11 Serafin Nunez August 7, 2013 at 12:17 am

My three regrets…
1. Taking student loans to live off campus.
2. Majoring in education.
3. Credit card debt.

12 P August 7, 2013 at 12:58 am

I can understand 1 and 3, but I vehemently disagree with 2. Study what you love. Hell, my area of specialty was ancient Persian literary history, and I loved every minute of studying it. And history and literature in general. What mattered–I learned to study, think critically, research, analyze, and write. I might be in tech now, but I would not change what I majored in. Learning, loving what you are learning, and becoming obsessive and passionate about a subject are as, maybe more important, than training for a trade.
College is about expanding horizons, not limiting them.

13 Daniel Hare August 7, 2013 at 1:15 am

this whole issue of student debt gives me mixed emotions. i am entering my senior year as a returning student. i was a casualty of the 2008 recession and lost my job and after a year of collecting unemployment and looking for a job with a wife and a newborn son i decided the only way to get back in the game was to go back to school and earn a degree. first off you have to look at school as a JOB! and also you have to take advantage of every resource that is available to you. that is the best advice i can give you. i have earned close to $100,000 in grants and scholarships and haven’t had to take out a dime in loans and haven’t had to work more than part time since i started school three years ago all while supporting my family. IMO loans are for the lazy, the students who just want the degree and are fine with a “C” average and just want out of there.

if you choose your school wisely and start at a JC where it is astronomically cheaper for your first two years and then transfer to a state school, which is still astronomically cheaper for your last two years, your tuition will rarely get out of hand and if you work your tail off and apply for scholarships you can actually earn more money than you would just working while your entire undergrad degree is paid for. most schools have hundreds of scholarships that they simply cannot give away because not enough people apply for them (believe me i know, i work in the financial aid office), and all it takes is working hard, getting “A”s instead of “B”s or “C”s, keeping that GPA up and spending a couple hours honing your scholarship letter writing skills. like my college counselor told me: “is $2000 or full tuition worth a few hours of your time?” it better be! otherwise you are just throwing money out there because there is a ton of money out there just waiting for a student to ask for it.

i start school again in the fall in a couple weeks and it is nice to know that after my tuition is paid i will be getting a check for about $6,000 dollars deposited in my account each of my last three quarters until i graduate next june with a BA! with even more grants and scholarships to come next year when i begin my graduate studies, and all i had to do for that money was put my nose to the grindstone, fill out a couple forms each year, write a few letters and take care of business… it’s that easy!

14 Brian August 7, 2013 at 3:01 am

Great article! I had the misfortune of coming from a family that made to much for great need-based scholarships, and too little for them to help me pay for school. After “following my passion” studying undergrad in psychology, and two master’s in philosophy and religion, I smartened up! I took on too much student loan debt to ever be able to afford a car, house, etc… I applied and was accepted to a 1 year computer science conversion degree in the UK, and moved in with my girlfriend (who was working there) to lower my costs. After busting my butt for the year in my classes, and SEARCHING FOR JOBS FROM THE VERY FIRST WEEK, I landed a great IT job a few months before graduation. I used nearly 100% of my paycheck to pay off my student loans, and after almost 3 years have paid it off completely. Now I have a great job with good salary, no debt (never had any credit card debt, none!!!), and a wife who I can thank for the rest of my life for supporting me. We continue to save about 80% of our paychecks and have just bought our first apartment.

It can be boiled down to lowering your expenses (+ debt) and raising your income by selecting a good major that set you up for the best job prospects. I don’t think that you should follow your passion as an 18 year old and study whatever you want. Passions change, and I am more passionate now about being financially independent than I would have been working for next to nothing in a job that would not leave me able to support my family. Be practical with what you study, apply for every scholarship under the sun, live cheaply, and work while in school to get some extra income… and of course surround yourself with people who have the same goals. It may be a little preachy, but I did study theology ;)

15 Roy Murphy August 7, 2013 at 7:26 am

Here in Ireland, and most places outside America, college is basically free. My course only costs 2,500 euro for the four years. It is still important to get a job and have your own money at 18 though, it helps a man feel more in charge of his own life.

16 Rob August 7, 2013 at 8:23 am

Please note that the Coast Guard does have an ROTC equivalent program – and it is potentially available to students whose college does not otherwise offer ROTC:

http://www.gocoastguard.com/find-your-career/officer-opportunities/programs/college-student-pre-commissioning-initiative-(scholarship-program)

17 lady brett August 7, 2013 at 8:49 am

don’t despair that you *have* to get a crappy job, though. once you’re established in your major, there may be job options within your field/department. as a scientist, i was a lab assistant for most of college, but even a boring secretarial job is likely more interesting and definitely better for making connections if you are doing it within your major rather than in a random office. and as an upperclassman you can often find summer projects/internships that pay (though many don’t, of course).

(on the other hand, there’s nothing wrong with a crappy job that pays the bills – i didn’t have any of those during school, but i certainly had some after graduation!)

18 Andy August 7, 2013 at 8:54 am

This is an excellent article! I really wish that I had read something like this before I went to college, so that I wouldn’t now be 30 with a significant amount of student loan debt.

A couple of points…
- It’s great to look for scholarships. However, I had the experience of getting outside scholarships and having my college reduce the amount of financial aid they were giving me because I did so. And of course, they reduce grants and not loans. Just be aware of this happening.
- Consider international editions of textbooks. They are generally identical to American versions, and oftentimes when there are slight differences, they’re so small it’s irrelevant. They are a fraction of the cost, and even though you won’t be able to sell them back to the bookstore, the amount you pay for them is generally still less than if you were to buy the regular version and sell it back. These got me through grad school.
- If you do have to take on student loans, make sure you fully understand everything about what you’re getting into. My parents couldn’t afford to outright pay for college for me, and didn’t set up anything beforehand, so I had to take on student loans. Unfortunately, they also didn’t do a very good job of preparing me for what was to come. When you’re eager to start school, it’s easy to just sign the papers without giving it much thought. Don’t do this. Ask questions, and be as informed as you can.

19 Ken Walter August 7, 2013 at 9:03 am

There’s a crucial piece of advice missing here:

#4) You Don’t Have to Go Straight to a 4-year College

It’s a plain fact that a lot of 18 year olds don’t really know what they want to do with the rest of their lives – many of them probably can’t tell you what they want to do for the next 5 years except in the vaguest terms. Some of that can be helped by better career counseling and early job experience / volunteer work, but the simple truth is that you may not know what you want to study for a few years. And that’s perfectly OK.

Going to an accredited junior college gives you the opportunity to try out diverse fields of study one class at a time. Even better, you can pick up a fair amount of transferable credit to take the sting off of the big school tuitions once you have things nailed down. Community college schedules are also more flexible and geared toward working students much of the time, so you can earn work and volunteer experience for your resume, and have an adventure, like a summer-long foreign travel/volunteer program (my almost-wife and I both did programs like this, and we consider them formative experiences that brought a huge amount of perspective to our lives).

I finally got my Bachelor’s Degree in 2010, after 7 years and 3 schools, and with enough debt to put a down payment on a mansion – I was, to put it mildly, “unfocused”. When it comes time to help any kid of mine pick a school, I won’t be pressuring them to jump in with both feet if they don’t have a clear idea in mind – it just begs for trouble.

20 Brandon August 7, 2013 at 9:43 am

For #1 I didn’t do this but I was very lucky to go to an in-state school in Georgia which has the HOPE scholarship. This pretty much paid my tuition.

#3 I do wish I had gotten a regular job (besides internships) but more for the work ethic I would have learned.

#2 Personally for me this was never an issue because I was a strong math-science guy and went straight for electrical engineering. I am kind of split on what I would tell my future kids though. On one hand I feel like they should do something they are truly passionate about, because they will succeed and make money if they enjoy what they are doing. On the other hand, you do need to get real and not take some worthless major with low job prospects. What’s the point of going to college for a job that pays $25k or has no prospects forcing you to work an unrelated job? Maybe i’ll tell my kids to follow their passions, but if a college degree for their passion isn’t worth it, then don’t go to college.

21 Tim August 7, 2013 at 10:10 am

All throughout high school I was pushed and pushed to fill out scholarships because that’s what people do. I filled out a lot of scholarships & busted my butt just getting them all out throughout my highschool years. How much did I get? Zero. My dad made to much money for me to get any “low-wage” discounts & didn’t have money to help me so I paid my way through college with loans and working 45 hours a week. Just remember scholarships would be ideal but they are not easy. Don’t make kids think failed b/c they didn’t get scholarships b/c that’s how I always felt when people would consistently tell me to “try harder”.

22 Josh W. August 7, 2013 at 10:37 am

My biggest regret is losing the scholarship money I earned. Don’t be stupic like me and slack off your freshman year only to have your grades suffer and the state drop the scholarship that paid for 100% of your education.

Not only did I lose my scholarship money, but my GPA never fully recovered after that first year.

Save yourself the headache and take school seriously from the get go.

23 Zach August 7, 2013 at 12:03 pm

(The “you” here is the hypothetical entering-college student–congrats, you!) The most important point is number two. You need to think about what lifestyle you envision post-college and seriously consider what sorts of comforts you expect to have. A major difficulty in this planning process is that it is difficult to know how much certain lifestyles cost at the age of 18 when you are making choices about what to study. Find out! You’ll be able to make more informed decisions.

I am a Phd student (Economics), and I make about 17K/yr as a teaching assistant (my job with a W-2)/private tutor (my side job). I don’t have internet (at home)/cable/go out to eat/beer that is not Hamm’s. I eat pasta or rice for nearly every meal. I live in a small apartment with a roommate.

I don’t mind the lifestyle because I have pretty simple wants, I don’t have a family, and I enjoy the freedom I have to research a subject I enjoy at a top institution all day when I’m not teaching (also, unlike some other Phd’s, in economics there are still large-ish future financial rewards).

If you are thinking about doing only an academic major and then going to graduate school, understand that the above scenario is pretty good for a grad student. I am definitely making more than many Phd students. I don’t have to pay tuition due to my teaching assistantship. There are, of course, many students with a better current lifestyle, but they are financing it with loans (I don’t take out any loans) or a willingness to cut it a little closer than I will.

Since I did economics and mathematics in undergraduate, I had outside options after college if I did not get such a generous offer for graduate school (finance-related jobs mostly). Make sure you have these options as well.

24 Greg August 7, 2013 at 12:43 pm

In response to @Nicholas, if anyone else is wondering if Math majors have job prospects other than teaching, the answer is a resounding ‘Yes’! Math majors often become actuaries, quantitative analysts at banks, financial analysts, supply chain analysts, software engineers, and the like. The skills of mathematics will make you seem like a genius in whatever field you pursue. My problem-solving skills seem like magic to my clients. However, no one needs you to do proofs all day except universities, so you need to also study practical applications, which is where most math majors fall down. Math + Business Finance = Dynamite. Math + Philosophy = Dead end PhD track.

I also thought a lot about student debt, having made some mistakes myself, so here are my suggestions.
1. Graduate in 3 years or 3 1/2 years instead of 4. This is completely possible in most situations. I could have done it if I had focused, but I was being stupid. Extra years in school waste money and time. Get all the credits you can each semester, including AP credits in high school, and get out of college as fast as you can. You get an extra working year on your peers and less debt.
2. I wish I had done #1 in the article, though as other commenters have mentioned, the aid I did receive tended to decrease the aid I was getting from the school. It was a wash, but only because I didn’t pursue enough outside aid to outstrip the school’s offer.
3. Don’t be too snobby about your school. I had a choice between two schools–one was offering me a nearly full ride and the other was offering me just a little bit of help. The one offering a little bit of help was a slightly better school, but I went with it after listening to my guidance counselor and parents. This move probably cost me $40,000 in debt without appreciably increasing my future income. Mistake.
4. Don’t count on your degree to get you good starting prospects and pay. I graduated with honors in math with business applications, but I didn’t get a real interview until I passed 2 actuary exams after college. Then everyone started beating on my door. I could have done this in college, but Super Smash Brothers every night was more important to me. Even non-actuary recruiters started calling me, because the ability and determination to keep improving after college is important to hiring managers.

Best of luck to all college dudes out there right now!

25 Scott Hinrichs August 7, 2013 at 1:38 pm

Very good advice. I managed to make it through undergrad and grad school with no student debt. Just a lot of work. I was working full-time for four of the six years that I was in school. Was it hard? Yeah. Was it sometimes drudgery? Yeah. But the result was well worth it.

I saw a study a couple of years ago that said that the average college student that has student loans spends nearly $10K per year on “lifestyle choices” that have nothing to do with education. These include where and with whom they live, what they eat, recreation, etc.

In other words, simply living frugally could more than compensate for the average $30K in student loans cited in the post. It might not be the most socially rewarding approach, but it will make the future much better.

26 Todd August 7, 2013 at 2:36 pm

For anyone considering going to the military to pay for school (and that is a solid option) people who go to school first THEN enter the military can often enter as Officers, and get more pay and advancement. Those other perks earned can be used to pay for massively expensive grad school.

Just a thought!

27 Nick August 7, 2013 at 4:27 pm

My recommendation…apply for In-State tuition for out of state schools. I have several friends who racked up almost six figures of debt because they were paying out of state tuition. The thing to do is finding out what your schools policy is to do this. At my school you had to show “financial independence from you parents for one year” which meant getting and KEEPING a job. So you can either work towards the criteria as you take classes…or take a year off after high-school, move to your new school’s city, and make (and save) some money before you start your higher education.

And there is something to be said for an extra years worth of emotional maturity. Speaking as someone who now teaches and interacts with freshmen…a lot of them could use a nice healthy dose of maturity. College has become the natural extension of high school and therefore gets treated as such…there isn’t the same threshold boundary that college used to have

Cheers.

28 Mr Bill August 7, 2013 at 4:39 pm

I’m way beyond college in the latter years of my life… but I envy you gents just “starting out”. First of all, you found and are active on this website of learning the finer points of being a man. Secondly – Responsibility is a recurring theme on the posts of this thread. I salute you gents that have saved for college, are working your way through college, or are looking for ways to improve your situation as you are enrolled in college.
If I could do things over and had someone to teach me back then I believe my life would be so different but… water over the bridge.
@LanceR – At this time in your life, 25% is not too much to save out of your paychecks – compound interest being what it is, you should be nicely set financially when you get my age. Not to say that amount should continue as you will find it to be a bit burdensome as you buy the usual house, land, car, get a significant other and a family, etc… Just don’t stop saving altogether. Do me a favor and take the advice from an old man.
Oh, and old cookbooks are a great investment. 25 cents to a couple of bucks each at garage sales and you can teach yourself to cook.

29 Doug Davis August 7, 2013 at 5:42 pm

Great insights in this piece and thanks for them.
I’m thinking about what to do for my daughter who will have to face the questions of whether or not to go to college and if the answer to that is yes, then what is a good choice as far as school. I’m looking strongly at College of the Ozarks, which has a “graduate debt-free” maxim for all undergraduates. At 18, I know the mainstream higher ed culture tacitly encourages “party as much as you want and take out loans to pay for it”. I don’t want to encourage financial laxity in my kid, as that is not a good life skill.

30 LanceR August 7, 2013 at 8:04 pm

@Andrew, Hey thanks for the link! I really appreciate that :). Looks very interesting. I signed up.

31 Bear August 7, 2013 at 8:18 pm

Quick thought on the job part, if you live off campus, you might ask if you could work for your landlord. Obviously not all landlords are the same, but I worked for mine all through college and will continue to work there till the end of the month as a side job (I’m only quitting then because I’m moving for my real career). They’re usually going to be pretty reasonable employers for hours around classes and you might even get some nice perks from a job like that.

32 Matt Herrmann August 7, 2013 at 9:50 pm

Don’t take out private loans! It’s better to wait and work. Trust me.

One thing those of us out of college need to do, is to ensure that college rates stay affordable. Ohio State for example, costs $12,500 a year, in-state. That’s over $40,000 after four years of college. No student should be burdened with that debt, no matter how high-paying or low-paying the industry they’re pursuing is.

33 James R. August 7, 2013 at 10:20 pm

Also, look at the military reserve branches! I currently serve in the Army National Guard. I talked to a recruiter during a career fair my first semester of college and went to all of my training from May to November of the following year. I “lost” a semester of school compared to the rest of my high school class, but it covers almost all of my tuition. Plus, I get a regular paycheck every month for just a few days of work.

Not to mention military service always looks great on a resume, plus it opens a lot of doors with future employers and is a great way to build manliness.

34 JimW August 8, 2013 at 1:25 am

Go abroad. Often better education and always cheaper. Great experience.

35 Jennifer August 8, 2013 at 11:32 am

Please, please, please do not “[get] an education certificate to teach” just to pay the bills. Teaching is a highly skilled and increasingly undervalued profession. Don’t hurt yourself, your students, or the field by taking on the job if you don’t have an actual desire to teach.

36 Claude August 8, 2013 at 12:14 pm

Fortunately, I followed these rules during my college years. I do have some regrets though.
DON’T
1. let someone else choose your major
2. treat college like “party time”
3. give less effort to courses not directly related to your major
4. go to college at all, if you know you’d be happier by learning a trade

DO
1. take advantage of the job placement office.
2. take advantage of ALL advising offices. (not just your assigned advisor)
3. Use that time of your life to become better.

37 Rasheed August 8, 2013 at 12:54 pm

What worked for me was getting through college as FAST as possible. I did this by taking online classes during the summer which allowed me to graduate with my undergrad in half the time it usually takes. By breaking up summers into two mini semester I was able to take three classes in summer A and three in summer B for a total of six classes (18 credits) in one summer. Did this twice and haven’t looked back since.

Here’s some good reasoning as to why you should take online classes:
http://www.headlinemiami.com/online-classes/

38 Mikko August 8, 2013 at 1:28 pm

First time reading AoM and this article is on the front page, and just today I was going through the things I need to get sorted before/straight away as school starts. It’s almost like you knew…

I’ve got my very own motivation for saving money: I’m a bit of an audiophile but I’m missing a proper LP player, and those things sure aren’t free! Going to take a while before I can afford it, I know, but I’m a patient man.

39 Malik H. Wise August 8, 2013 at 1:33 pm

Once you’re out of high school and decide that you’re ready for college, it’s game time. Like Daniel Hare said, you have to treat college like it’s a job and not just school. Although I never took the SAT or ACT, and took a four year detour for military service, I was able to get into a community college afterwards with just a placement exam. When you treat school as a job, you’ll find that you have more focus than other students, consistently better grades, and you actually LEARN the material because you feel you HAVE to know it.
After community college, a 3.89 GPA got me accepted into both of the four-year universities that I applied to (both state schools) and I found myself in a position to do anything I want even without having to take that life-sucking test that most American high-schoolers find themselves dreading.
While I do understand that the military route is for everyone and I would never try to convince someone who wasn’t interested to entertain the thought, here’s some advice that should be good for any your man (or woman) out there:
• Don’t just go to school for something you think you’re passionate about. It sounds good when parents say it but if they haven’t nurtured that passion for your entire life, chances are you may still change your mind. A friend of mine got a bachelor’s in veterinary science only to discover that she wants to be a nurse. Expensive mistake. Do everything you can to make up your mind early and stick with it. Link your minor to your major as strongly as possible so that you can branch out but both should be in fields that you know you’re interested in.
• Start at a two-year college and transfer from there. You might miss out on some of the opportunities that freshmen and sophomores at 4-years will get but ultimately you learn the same things.
• Don’t knock state schools. Most state universities will have agreements with junior colleges in the area that will transfer all of your credits and that’s an important factor in getting through school as quickly as you can. Even if you decide to attend a private school later, it’s much less expensive as long as you’re attending a school that will transfer all or most of your credits.
• Live off campus. I live in an apartment with my younger brother (who’s also starting college soon) and we pay $350/person a month for rent because I don’t have $12K/year to just give away.
• Live below your means. Thomas J. Stanely wrote a great book entitled Stop Acting Rich. It’s strongly recommended that you check it out if you haven’t read it yet. Learning doesn’t stop outside of the classroom.
Thank you Jeremy for a wonderful post. Best of luck to everyone.

40 Nathan August 8, 2013 at 4:41 pm

Solid article, however I am going into education and I highly recommend NOT just simply getting a teaching license for the heck of it. Kids need a motivated teacher who wants to be there teaching them, not a person in between point A and B in their life. Plus it is a labor of love- lots of hours, many children from all sorts of backgrounds to deal with (especially in high school) and red tape out the wazoo. Do yourself a favor and find another job that hires people with degrees in humanities (many government positions are filled by people with history degrees, including at the federal level) or find a grad program you would want to do. You and everyone else will be happier than if you just get a license to teach just because.

41 Dylan Tootle August 9, 2013 at 12:18 pm

I am heading into my Sophomore year in engineering at FSU with zero debt. I was fortunate enough to have a vigilant step father who invested a small amount of money in silver for me and watch it grow 30-fold. Also I am a year married, with my wife working full time to keep food in our house. And soon she will start on her A.A . degree. I have certainly been blessed by God in my life. And I feel for those students who have to go into debt in order to pay tuition.

42 Matthew Hines August 9, 2013 at 1:10 pm

I can relate to many things in this article, but my story is slightly different. I didn’t go directly to college right out of high school: instead, I went to work for eight years while picking up a few credits here and there. But after eight years of working dead end jobs with no job security and few skills, I got serious about my education.

I have been lucky in how I earned my degree. My college has the best credit transfer policy around, and is geared towards distance education. I managed to pay around $2000 for the first sixty credits by using a low cost education provider which had a credit transfer deal with my college. I was allowed to go as quickly as I needed to, so I was allowed to test out of subjects I already knew.

I am now four courses from earning my B.A. in History, and it will have cost under $10,000. I will graduate with only $6700 in student debt.

I know I broke Rule One of the article of studying a subject that is in high demand, but I studied what I loved, and got much out of it. Still, I am going to study investment banking independently in the next few months so I can monetize the degree properly. Even so, investment banking isn’t really what I want to do, but I will work in it for a few years and gain some financial rewards before I pursue my dream.

43 Dave Stopps August 9, 2013 at 9:04 pm

After changing schools and choosing a new major at the new school I was looking at another 4 1/2 years instead of 3. Best thing I did was to get what I paid for. Most colleges give students 17 credits, most students take the minimum of 12 so the can play and have a “college experience”. I actually overloaded every semester and got out of school in 3 1/2 years not including a semester of student teaching.

44 LJ August 10, 2013 at 7:58 pm

@Dylan
Having your wife work to pay for your tuition while she postpones her own education isn’t manly. Far better to split household expenses evenly, and then each take responsibility for your own education.

45 Josh August 11, 2013 at 7:11 pm

I disagree somewhat with point two. The purpose of college ought not be to get a job. Certainly it is something to take into account–if you do plan on making lots of money after college, then you have to do what is necessary. However, the primary purpose of college is to become educated, and education does not need some pay-off to be valuable in its own right.

46 JewishBanker August 12, 2013 at 3:13 am

I am currently in community college, trying to achieve the maximum highest GPA possible (close to 4.0). I worked extremely hard, but hey its still community college. I plan on transferring to a four-year state university in the spring of next year and pursue a practical degree as recommended by others. I also think applying for scholarships is very important, but not a guarantee that you will get any (sad story bro). I will graduate with student loan debt, but you have to look at college as an investment, but I will try to pay off as much as possible whilst still in school. I eventually would like to have a lucrative career in Investment Banking, but not sure if thats possible since my future school isn’t a “target school.”

47 dannyb278 August 12, 2013 at 10:44 am

Study something you like. If you love it and excel at it, chances are you will find success

Geoff, I and many of my friends/coworkers have social science/ liberal arts degrees and make a good living working in scientific positions in both the government and private sector.

I myself turned a degree in anthropology into a career with the US Forest Service as an Archaeologist, and recently have left to work in the private sector as an Environmental Analyst in the energy sector, and am making a fantastic income. Never was “wondering why the sky is blue” but of my career goals.

Perhaps you should talk about things you actually are qualified to speak about instead of the insulting and ignorant drivel you posted on here.

48 Ben Gygax August 12, 2013 at 12:07 pm

First, here’s what I did. As soon as I possibly could, I started working. 13-14 years old, I was doing yard work for my neighbors. Even my parents gave me some money for extra chores done around the house (we didn’t get an allowance. Harsh at the time, I thouhgt, but I thank my dad for that now). I volunteered at a history museum whenever I could and that became a paying job when I turned 16. So by the time I started school, I paid for the entire first year up front, debt free. Then, instead of going to a normal school, I went to one that offered night classes. I worked up to 3 part-time jobs and went to school full time. Somewhere in there I found time for a (limited) social life. During spring break I worked even more instead of heading to Cancun or wherever. I graduated from school completely debt free.

My sister borrowed the money from my parents (she went to nursing school which as more expensive), worked her butt off, got supurb grades, and is now working as an RN, paying them back (if she hasn’t already).

Another option…..join the military. Either join up part-way through school and go to OCS (officer candidate school) and then complete your degree, or enlist and take advantage of the G.I. Bill. A lot of time the training you get in the military will transfer to college credit (unless your job is like a sniper or something) and if it’s something you’re interested in already you’re getting experience in that field before you really even go to college for it. Once in, you have a job while you study, as well as the majority of your school being paid for you. If you like the military, there’s the chance to apply to become an officer once you have your degree. I’m enlisting in the Navy here soon going into the nuclear field. A LOT of that will transfer over if I want to get another degree while I’m in (something profitable to do while I’m on cruise to be sure).

49 Chuck August 12, 2013 at 5:23 pm

Can’t say enough about ROTC. I got my last two years of school paid for. The management experience was invaluable once i went into the business world. And i got to see quite a bit of the world as well including Korea, Japan, Europe, and the Middle East.

I would recommend that a responsible undergraduate look at being an RA in the dorms – free rent and meals typically. I know fraternities have a stigma of binge drinking snobbery, but i don’t think that exists to an equal extent with non-greeks. our fraternity executive board (pres, vice president, rush chair, treasurer, etc) got free rent or discounted rent in the frat house and there are many business contacts to be made early on in those circles as well.

50 Patrick August 12, 2013 at 9:07 pm

I graduated without debt due to my parents enabling to be more proactive with money. They thought me a hard lesson about values.

It feels great not to worry about creditors.

With that said, I give you two thumbs up Brett for being informative and overall sharing great tips.

People often underestimate their ability to juggle time, money, and social life. It’s not very challenging when you’re quite flexible in general. Be open to options and don’t look at school institutions as one way streets. You can easily take advantage of them as they of you.

Plus do not waste time. You can’t buy back time.

51 Dallas August 13, 2013 at 4:05 pm

great tips, the problem is (aside from being about 10 years too late) i doubt that i would have listened to them as a fresh from high school student. i was not ready for college at the time, because i had intended on joining the military out of HS and using the GI bill to pay for school. when 9/11 happened, my parents realized that i would have likely landed in Afghanistan and offered to pay for school to keep me out. i took their offer, but their money ran out and i ended up to my eyeballs in debt. So it goes. Now i will just have to man up and keep working myself out of it.

52 Bill August 14, 2013 at 12:09 pm

Yes.
Maybe.
No.

Pursue scholarships and financial aid? Definitely yes.

Pursue a major with better job prospects? Maybe. Future wages are an important factor, but hardly the only one. Try to choose a major that will lead you somewhere you’ll be happy being and happy working (it’s tough to do).

Start saving money? Definitely no. In college you’re going to be poor. With your degree, you’ll likely make more money later. Why would you scrimp and save when your poor in order to pass a few bucks to yourself later when you’re making more money? By all means get a job in college, but ENJOY the money and spend it. That’s a much better use at that time in your life.

53 Alex September 3, 2013 at 8:43 am

While it is often remarked that people who major in the liberal arts suffer in the job market, I’m not sure if this is actually borne out in real life. It is certainly true that people holding degrees which are career focused may find their first jobs more easily, studies show that students holding degrees in the liberal arts do not ultimately suffer, and perhaps even earn more money in the long run.

Philosophy majors, for instance, have the highest income of any major in the humanities–and that almost certainly includes journalism, public relations, communications, and so forth. In no small part this is due to the fact that Philosophy majors are often more well prepared for Law School than any other field (including pre-law) because of the intensive focus on seemingly quaint skills like reading, writing, textual interpretation and argument.

Obviously this doesn’t immediately apply to STEM fields. These require a whole set of skills outside of my purview. But, much like the textual and argumentative skills that a degree like philosophy offers, rigorous training in the sciences or mathematics provides deep understanding of systematic language and provides a basis for learning throughout life.

On the other hand, many for-profit colleges and even mainstream colleges cash in on people who think it is more ‘practical’ to study something like ‘business’–and empirically these majors do not necessarily result in great careers in ‘business.’

In a time when most people leaving high school can scarcely read the newspaper–and I mean in the best of circumstances, a student leaving high school is only nominally literate, even leaving a very good high school, its simply a matter of age–I think we should understand the role of the liberal arts and sciences in educating young people to be capable of reading, writing, understanding deeply, communicating, and so forth.

These are skills that make life richer, and counter-intuitively allow one to make more money in the long term.

We chronically take the short view. The liberal arts have provided the basis of civilized society since 500BC.

More CEOs, Presidents, and ordinary interesting people have degrees in the liberal arts than you would have expected.

Sometimes, the truth isn’t what it would seem to be, or what public opinion likes to suggest.

That being said, look for scholarships, and get jobs early, because student debt and inexperience are terrible, terrible things.

54 Mark Z. October 9, 2013 at 7:59 am

Something that I have done is to start off by attending a two year college to get some of the requirements out of the way and to help me decide on a major. This, I feel, is a cheaper and safer approach to college.

55 AJ October 13, 2013 at 4:13 pm

Here’s another option for avoiding college debt. Don’t go. Instead, go to trade school. At least here in Alberta, Canada tradesmen are in ridiculously high demand. We have more work than we know what to do with. I’m a welder and here that means a 3 year apprenticeship, with 2 months of formal school per year for a grand total of 6 months of formal schooling. Each session will run you $1000 for tuition. That’s it. I lived with family for each of the 2 months, and walked out of tradeschool debt free. As a 1st year apprentice, I paid more in income tax on one paycheck than my college going friends took home in a whole month. They’re now graduated and finding jobs. I’m all but finished my apprenticeship. I still take home way more money and have a much higher quality of life than all but a few of my friends. The only ones that are doing similarly well are the ones who went into nursing, but they’re paying off all that schooling. The ones who took a business or technology degree are struggling since people who do that are a dime a dozen therefore competition for jobs is fierce and the pay is lower since there’s such a large labour pool to choose from.

Not trying to kick anyone’s scholarly dreams, just thought I’d throw that out there, as trade school is often looked down upon and not mentioned often by so-called guidance counselors. I was being pushed towards university myself, but once i saw the earning potential to cost of education ratio that the trades offered, I did an about face.

56 stephen November 20, 2013 at 6:36 pm

One piece of advice. DO NOT get a credit card. I had everything paid for regarding school except gas, and extra little things like shampoo, laundry soap, etc. I worked a pt job to pay for the little things and for the bars. However, by my senior year I was working less and less and I wanted more money. I researched credit cards. I was approved for a AMEX card with a $5k limit. I of course had it sent to me. That was the biggest mistake. I spent that $5k within four months on bar tabs, new clothes, travel and other stupid purchases. I thought at the time (got the AMEX senior year) I would be able to pay it off soon after graduation because I would have a decent salaried career. Well graduation came and I didn’t get the job I was interning for. The company cut back on employees and budget. So I found myself graduated, working pt and with a massive amount of debt. I have panicked every day since because I can only make the monthly $25 payment and stress about the day when the interest starts kicking in. In all, DO NOT get a credit card. It is way too easy to swipe the plastic and forget about it. I will never have another credit card in my life. Not worth the risk.

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