This post was requested by a special friend who is beginning college as a grown ass womyn. She wants to start off her journey on the right foot and asked for some advice. I hope my experience is helpful. If you have any additional advice for my homegirl, sound off in the comments below.
Unpopular opinion, but college is not the time for careless mistakes. Sure, oversleeping and partying too much is understandable. Taking out loans without a second thought? Avoiding office hours? All are rookie mistakes that will cost you in the long run. Trust me, I’ve made plenty of poor choices that I am still literally paying for years later. Don’t be like me, get yourself together NOW, not later. Your future self will thank you.
Another unpopular opinion, but if you don’t know what you want, you are wasting time and money. Get some work experience under your belt, talk to young professionals about how they figured it all out, do some research on what interests you. An undecided major means you are more likely to take a bunch of classes that will not count toward your degree. Yes, this is a good way to figure out what you DON’T want, but there are better (read: cheaper) ways to do this (intern, work, shadow people for a day, and so on).
Skipping Community College
To this day, I wish I enrolled in community college and then transferred to a university. I know people look down on this, which is probably why I didn’t consider it a serious option. Now that I am sitting on $35,000 of student loans? I wish I could go back in time and make a different choice. Save money, screw your ego, and get your pre-reqs outta the way. Also, many CCs have certifications and trade programs that will get you good paying job. If you’re set on university, this job can pay tuition.
Related: 7 Money Hacks (That ACTUALLY WORK)
Missing Office Hours
Once upon a time, I was a PhD student responsible for teaching undergraduates. I opened my office once a week and students came in with all sorts of questions and struggles. Were some questions stupid? Well, sure… but I helped because that was my job.
It is your professor’s job to help you. Your tuition is their paycheck. You better get your money’s worth and utilize office hours. Don’t perform poorly on assignments because you were too scared to ask for help.
I avoided thinking about my student loans and kept piling on the debt over a span of four years. I didn’t visit financial aid and ask for alternative options. I never had a plan of how I was going to afford my private (and thus insanely expensive) education. I didn’t know I could pay off interest while I was in school and keep the loan from capitalizing…!
What is capitalization? Come back later and check out this post by Melisa at YourMoneyWorth.
I knew nothing. You probably know nothing. If you’re a first generation college student or come from a lower income bracket, not only is your financial education WEAK but the options for funding your degree are limited. Loans are usually the only way to get where we are trynna go, it’s just how it is. Not knowing the terms of the loans or how repayment works? We cannot afford NOT to do the work. Ain’t nobody else gonna do it for you.
Not Thinking Strategically
When you graduate, you will either go on the job market or into graduate school. You will need letters of recommendation from faculty. Typically, recommendations come in THREEs, so identify FOUR professors that share your interests and become friendly (trust, you need a backup). Be a stellar student in their classes. Attend office hours. Talk with them about your career aspirations. Ask for advice. Volunteer to assist with research.
Luckily, I did this early in college and by the time I graduated, I had SIX solid letters of recommendation from professors across different departments. While I didn’t know exactly what I wanted to do, I knew I needed to make an impression.
I have plenty of insightful advice for new university and graduate students. If you’d like to receive more ass-saving advice, follow me on twitter! @grade21com
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