“College was such a waste of time. I spent all of this time and money on it. Now there’s nothing in it for me. I’m never going to find work in my field.”
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen this statement on social media or heard it from a friend. College can be a colossal waste of time and money. I have friends that never attended college that are ahead because they focused on doing something specific (from trades to working on a business).
Lets look at different ways that you can ensure you don’t waste your time and money in college…
The Wall Street Journal reported the following scary stat about student loans:
“About seven in 10 seniors set to graduate this spring borrowed for their educations. Along with their diplomas, they’ll carry an average $37,172 of student debt as they enter the workforce.”
That’s a scary amount of money to owe when you can’t even land a job out of college. Many college graduates are frustrated and fed up with how college went. I don’t want this to happen to you. If you’re starting college soon or if you know someone who is, then this is the article to read.
I really didn’t know what to expect out of college. I was the first in my family to attend. I did my best to try to enjoy the run. I still wish that I got more out of the experience. I’ve picked up advice from successful readers and other bloggers along the way.
What can you do as a college student to ensure that you don’t waste four years of your life?
Step 1: Study something useful that you care about.
I won’t bash your history degree. There’s nothing wrong with studying something for the sake of studying. 100% of your problems are caused by studying something that you don’t care about. Add in the expensive prices and you’re pretty frustrated.
I know that your parents want you to be an accountant, but do you want to be an accountant?
You can’t force yourself to be passionate about a topic that you hate.
How do you find something useful to study?
- Think of your interests.
- Look at where the money is within your interests.
- Check out all of the programs.
- Look at different schools.
- Find the perfect program.
You don’t have to rush either.
You can take a year off to save up, to figure things out, or to just travel. It’s okay to attend community college first. This is what I did. You don’t have to jump into some four-year college program when you don’t even know what you want to do because your parents want you to.
Step 2: Find ways to graduate debt-free/limit your debt.
If you graduate in debt and owe over $50k, you’re going to have a rough time; unless you start making big bucks straight out of college, it’s going to be a struggle to deal with this student mortgage. I want to help you avoid this like I did. I was lucky enough to graduate with money in the bank. I was able to freelance and to travel instead of worrying about landing a job to survive.
How can you limit your student debt?
- Be extremely frugal.
- Apply for free money (scholarships, bursaries, and so on).
- Work in the summer (even if it’s the worst possible job…in a hot factory).
- Find a program with work terms.
- Buy used textbooks or wait to see if you even need the textbook.
I’ve seen too many friends settle into the first job out of college because they had loans to deal with. You don’t want to be working a job you hate because you have to pay back all of the money that you borrowed.
[Must read: How I graduated from college debt-free.]
Step 3: Work part-time.
This is where I excelled. I had a serious girlfriend for most of college. I worked and kept busy. I got myself into trouble with the partying once in a while.
Try to get some sort of work so that you’re forced to get better with time management. Working part-time will set you up for future success for two reasons:
- You make money and get paid. Money is a good thing. Don’t finance the entire experience.
- You get into the habit of working. Do you know how many college graduates have a terrible work ethic because they never worked before? Waking up early in the morning to be productive at work isn’t exactly easy if you’ve never done it before.
Step 4: Try to freelance or do something for money.
I started Studenomics in 2008 because I wanted to help students with money. I also wanted my own business because I thought it sounded cool.
You don’t have to get rich from your business. You can work on that product (blog, podcast, YouTube series, or whatever new technology will be out by the time you read this). You can then try to monetize this hobby of yours.
I want you to try to do something to make some money.
You won’t get rich from your first venture but that’s okay. You have to try to make money on your own. It’s kind of addicting.
This is difficult to accept at 19. We all want to change the world. We think that we’re going to be flying around in jets and signing 7 figure deals on private jets. I remember a buddy in college told me how he was looking forward to the days where he would be signing deals in strip clubs while enjoying expensive bottle service. Safe to say that hasn’t happened yet.
Step 5: Talk to your professors.
“We need to introduce ourselves to him after class!”
My buddy Marion insisted that I go speak with the professor with him after class. I did, and eventually we ended up doing this for every class. We would go introduce ourselves and make small talk. This simple introduction goes a long way and is a great way of networking for the future.
This isn’t high school where it’s cool to be rude to your teachers in the hallway. Get to know your professors and try to make some connections. You don’t want to graduate with zero contacts in your field.
Step 6: Do interesting things.
Do interesting things instead of rushing home after your lectures.
Try not to just go to class and then go home like I did. Do some interesting things so that you make friends for life and have some fun stories to tell your future children. Get involved!
What are some interesting things that you can do in college?
- Go to events around campus. This could be anything from trivia night to free concerts. You’ll make friends and have something to laugh about.
- Organize events. Try to organize a meet up. Throw a party or at least a little event.
- Intramural sports. Go play some sports. You can sign up as an individual. There are different skill levels and different sports. You can play in a social soccer leagues or try indoor volleyball. You make friends and you’re forced to stay active. This will also help with the freshman fifteen.
- Join a club. They have clubs based on everything from different languages to unique interests. If you’re too lazy to start a club, at least try to join one.
- Learn a skill. Can you play any instruments? Can you fight? Can you play sports? Learn something so that you have something to do in your spare time. You don’t want to be 25 with zero interests. How lame is it when you make a new friend and you discover that they have zero hobbies? Zzzzz.
Become interesting in college or at least do some interesting things. Imagine applying for a job and not having anything interesting to put on your resume?
Most employers won’t care about only grades. Do things that make you stick out. Get noticed.
Step 7: Don’t let partying ruin your life but have the time of your life.
“I have an exam tomorrow, I need to stop drinking.”
I’ll never forget when someone told me this at the bar one Tuesday night. I was done exams. This person still had another exam left. She was still out partying. Probably not a wise move.
Get hammered after exams, NOT before exams. Reward yourself for a job well done.
Common sense laws apply here:
- Don’t drink and drive.
- Don’t do anything that can get you arrested (or at least don’t get caught).
- Don’t get pregnant or get anyone pregnant.
- Don’t post pictures of you doing drugs on social media.
- Don’t drunk dial people you shouldn’t at 3 in the morning.
If you plan a little in college you’ll set yourself up for success in your 20s. I promise you that life in your 20s is way better when you have money.
Push yourself now while you’re young and the benefits will be much greater when you’re older looking back. Don’t forget to party hard because these are going to be some of the best years of your life!