What should I go to college for?
College days were really fun for me, but as I get older and see fellow alumni and other past colleagues of mine, it is pretty clear that a lot of decisions made in college have profound influences in your life ahead. This post is about my thoughts and observations on decisions that affect your life after college.
What are Your Career Ambitions?
For some folks, this is very clear cut. You want to be a doctor, or a lawyer. Those on sports scholarships know what they want to become. This simple yet difficult question plays a significant role in the major decisions you have to make in college. It will determine which college you apply for and accept. It will also determine whether you even want to go to college. It will determine what you will major in.
Most folks though, have no idea what they will end up doing after college so other factors are taken into consideration when choosing a college (like cost!).
How Much Debt do you Want to have After College?
I’m not sure if too many folks think about this. If you ask yourself and answer this question, it will determine which school you go to and your lifestyle while in college. If you’re pretty clear about your ambition and have the grades to back them up, perhaps the cost of your college may be a slightly less important factor.
For example, if you’re determined to become a professional singer, then you have to go to a music school. I would assume the better ones would help you more, but music students can always give music lessons to make money part time. If you aspire to be a doctor, you know you are likely to graduate from medical school with well over $200,000 or even $300,000 in student loans. The upside is that you are likely to have a high paying job and a relatively stable career after college, so that although the loans are crippling, it will not be an absolute financial disaster.
Determining how much debt you want to have after graduation becomes even more difficult if you are not sure what you are going to do after college. I did not know what I wanted to be when I graduated. I wished I had a clearer picture, but most of us usually don?t know. Looking at some of my peers, I can say that those who knew what they wanted in college and worked towards it, were more likely to achieve their goals (hey, no goals, no achievement?). And though they graduated with quite a bit of student loans, many managed to pay them off within a few years because they had good jobs. The folks I knew that were more carefree and unsure of what their futures held while in college, took much longer to pay off their debt (that’s just my observation among my peers – but perhaps yours is different).
Ivy League vs. State Schools.
The college that you attend could potentially have serious implications for your career. A big factor in many folks’ decisions is whether to go to a more costly Ivy League school or to a more affordable local state school (that is assuming you could qualify for one).
There are obviously pros and cons to both approaches. An Ivy League education can open doors to fantastic career opportunities. For example, if you did very well with your studies in an Ivy League school, internships at places like Goldman Sachs, Andersen Consulting and some of these top investment banks and consulting firms are a real possibility.
A career in any of these institutions is lucrative and could lead to better things as well (all assuming you have the ability). Furthermore, many of these top companies conduct recruiting only in certain schools. They can’t possibly devote their entire human resource effort to every college in the country so they only focus on the “top” (not necessarily Ivy League) colleges. Hence, if your college is not on their road show “circuit”, then you will have little chance of working for these folks.
If you aspire to be a CEO or a diplomat, then attending a prestigious Ivy League school is a way to build “connections” with sons of foreign diplomats as well as other type “A” students who are likely to be the movers and shakers of tomorrow.
The downside is an Ivy League school can cost an arm and a leg. Furthermore, to get into one of these top companies to work, you need to have a very good GPA. Let’s put it this way, a 3.2 score ain’t going to cut it with a Goldman Sachs or a Microsoft or a Google.
The Case For Going To State School?
If you’re offered a place in an Ivy League school, but don’t acquire enough scholarships to make it affordable, will you still accept or decline? Well, there are obviously two schools of thoughts here. The first school of thought – well, just read the paragraph above. The second school of thought says that where you are educated is not important, it is how well you do in your job that counts. Furthermore, going to a state school will save you a lot of money in the long run because you are not burdened by crippling student loans.
Your Summer Internships
Where you work during the summer could have profound implications on your career. If you manage to work during the summer for the firm you want to work for, it is your chance to shine and get a full time offer before you graduate. Whether you know what you want to do or just want to check out different firms, getting a good summer internship could be the difference between getting a great job out of college or having to make by with tips after you graduate.
Lifestyle Objectives in College
How do you plan to spend your time in college? Is getting good grades and trying to be the top of your class an important objective for you? These decisions can have a profound impact on your future. Not to say that there is a right way or wrong way to go about doing it. If working for a top Fortune 500 company is your objective, then you have to set your schedule and lifestyle differently. That probably means spending more time on work and making sure you apply for internships with firms you potentially want to work in.
Another objective could be to discover what career will suit you. Not many folks know exactly what they want to be when they graduate from college. Time spent exploring careers that interest you and are compatible with your personality are worthwhile objectives. If this is your objective, it could mean trying different summer intern jobs or applying as an internship in start ups. It could also mean starting your own part time business while in your dorm!
Some folks will just want to enjoy college life. Nothing wrong with that. But, my observations are that going on spring vacations when you cannot afford it or hanging out at the bars too often can result in unpleasant side effects like incurring credit card debt on your student credit card! Your lifestyle choices in college have to be consistent with your goals (both career and financial).
Build A Good Credit History Or Graduate With More Debt?
Well, guess I can’t escape from this topic given who I am. But here is the skinny. You should use your time in college to build a credit history. Chances are that you do not have one. The easiest way to do so is to apply for a credit card. You can either get one on your own or get your parents to co-sign. If you pay your bills in full, you will have a very good FICO score quickly and especially when you graduate. This will allow you to get lower mortgage, auto loan rates when you need them.
Obviously, if you feel you are not equipped to handle a credit card, then don’t get one until you feel that you are ready.
When I was in college, I wished I had explore and talked to more people in different industries to find out if they would suit my personality. I wished I had been more diligent in my summer internship search. Many of us will go through college trying to enjoy what potentially could be the best carefree days of our lives. But many decisions (and these aren’t the only ones) can affect you way into the future.
I would like to hear what you would have done differently if you could turn back the clock or if you’re thinking about what should I go to college for.
This was a guest post by Mr Credit Card.