Money 301: Big Decisions – College

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Money 204: Making A Little Extra Money

Contrary to a recruiter’s opinion, a degree itself is not important and where you go is even less important

  • What you put into the college experience is what you will get out of it, and nothing else
    • A credential hasn’t been seen as commendable for decades, but extracurricular activities are
    • A fraternity or sorority is a networking opportunity, but it should be on the way to the career
  • Research what your vocation makes annually and the true likelihood of getting into it
  • Assess if whether a formal education is even necessary for what you’re learning
    • Many careers only require knowledge and maybe a non-college certificate to start off, especially entry-level work
    • Once you have a career started, night classes are a financially reasonable approach
    • Generally, a hard work ethic and the desire to learn are all that are necessary to apprentice in most fields
  • Working any job is better than no job while you go to classes, and may be a better career starter than college!
    • Even dead-end jobs can provide lucrative and satisfying work

Pick your college as if it were an investment into a career

  1. Look at the net price for attending the school
    • Look at the terms and conditions of all school-based awards
    • Look at the total cost of tuition after freshman year, since many financial aid programs only apply for first-year students
    • Don’t be afraid to haggle or discuss a lowered price, since a recruiter is just a unique kind of salesperson
    • Also include in the costs of living
  2. Calculate the total cost, the money being invested at the beginning, and the total payment of the student loans by the time it’s paid off
  3. Find ways to cut costs or obtain alternative income sources
    • Consider obtaining in-state tuition, which is usually cheaper than out-of-state
    • Go to a community college for all possible classes you need
    • Break down the costs of on-campus versus off-campus living arrangements
    • Look for work study programs at the selected campus
    • Get a part-time job
      • If possible, try to find one that connects to the desired career path
    • Aim for scholarships and grants
      • Federal grants
      • Volunteering scholarships
      • Pay for SAT/ACT tutoring before taking the tests
      • Look for unique demographic scholarships that other people may have not even considered
  4. If you do have to get a student loan, opt for federal loans first, since they’re cheaper and have fixed interest rates with better repayment terms

When starting off at school

  • Learn to budget your time in order to budget your money more effectively
  • This will be the first step away from home, and it will be tempting to soak up all of the experiences
    • Learning money management habits earlier on will mean you will not be buried under unnecessary misery later
    • Though you aren’t looking beyond college, someday you will need to pay those loans
    • Your enjoyment of life will not stop just because college is over, and living for today will hurt you tomorrow

After graduating

  • If you’ve chosen a degree program and completed it, but can’t find work, a higher degree doesn’t guarantee anything
    • In fact, the completion of any college degree will create a “glass floor” for lower-paying entry-level work
    • Often the only work option for many doctorate programs is either to become a teacher in that discipline or choose a different one
    • Unless the degree is in Law or Medicine, many graduate programs don’t add value to your education outside of a college
  • Don’t try to maintain the college life after graduation
    • Some people will maintain multiple degrees across multiple unrelated disciplines, and their student debt will follow them forever
Next: Money 302: Big Decisions – Unemployment