Money 301: Big Decisions – College

Back To Main
Money 204: Making A Little Extra Money

Contrary to recruiters’ claims, a degree is not important

College gives opportunities to experience, but it’s up to the student to take the experience

  • A fraternity or sorority is a networking opportunity, but it’s not an irreproducible experience

Many high-paid career paths don’t need or even benefit from a college degree

Many careers only require knowledge and maybe a non-college certificate to start off, especially entry-level work

The desire to learn and the ability to work hard and focus is far more significant than a credential

College is necessary to move into management, but most positions require work experience more than a college education

Research the annual salary of the intended career path and the realistic likelihood of getting into it

  • If it takes years to break into the industry (such as a professional musician) calculate the expected years of non-income into that long-term plan

A credential hasn’t been prestigious for decades

Hiring managers look more at extracurricular activities on a resume

Long-standing universities have a branded reputation, but little else to offer for their substantial price tag

Look at more creative long-term options if college fits your plans

Until the industry expects it, don’t waste money on college

Start apprenticing now and take night classes

Work a decently-paying job right now and save for college or a credential

Build a network in the industry through working and take courses online at your leisure later

No matter what, working any job is better than no job, even while going to college

Even dead-end jobs provide income and the satisfaction of work

Bad jobs teach us valuable lessons in patience and assertiveness

Select a college as a financial investment into a lucrative 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
  • Include the costs of living
  1. Calculate how much you’ll spend
  • The total cost of tuition including books and fees
  • The amount of any loans you may need to cover what you can’t afford
  • The total amount paid toward the student loans when it’s finally paid off
  1. Cut costs or gain alternative streams of income
  • Consider in-state tuition, which is usually cheaper than out-of-state
  • Go to a community college for every class possible
  • Calculate whether living on-campus or off-campus is more affordable
  • Look for campus work study programs
  • Get a part-time job
    • If possible, try to find one connected to your career path
  1. Complete as many scholarships and grants as possible
  • Pay for SAT/ACT tutoring before taking the tests to get more scholarships
  • Look for federal grants
  • Try volunteering to fulfill some scholarships
  • Look for unique demographic scholarships other people may have not even considered
    • e.g., a scholarship set aside for a Filipino who wants to be an architect
  1. If you still need a student loan
  • Opt for federal loans first, since they’re cheaper and have fixed interest rates with better repayment terms
  • If student loans are entirely unavoidable, consider working in the trades instead

When starting off at school

Budget your time to budget your money more effectively

College is usually the first step away from home, and you’ll be tempted to soak up all of the experiences

  • By learning money management habits earlier on, you avoid unnecessary misery and debt later
  • You won’t often look beyond college, but someday you will need to pay any loans you’ve incurred
    • In fact, student loans usually persist through bankruptcy
  • Enjoying life doesn’t stop when college is over, but living too much for today will hurt you tomorrow

Keep working, since your work habits need to be fine-tuned for when you find a professional job

After graduating

If you’ve can’t find work after your degree, a higher degree guarantees nothing

In fact, completing a college degree often creates a “glass floor” against working in lower-paying entry-level work

  • Many doctorate programs are only used to become a teacher in that discipline or work in a small handful of related occupations (e.g., Philosophy, Art, Economics, History)
  • Except for a degree in Law or Medicine, most graduate programs add very little value to a non-teaching career

Don’t try to maintain the college lifestyle after graduation

  • Some people gain multiple degrees across multiple unrelated disciplines and become forever enslaved by student debt
Next: Money 302: Big Decisions – Unemployment