What I WISH I Knew Before Making College Decisions

Filed under Career & Money Live Well on Jul 05 12 by
College Decisions

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Preparing for college is both exciting and terrifying. You’re picking a school, picking a major, and making decisions about staying at home or moving away. These decisions are intimidating, and there’s always those scary “what-if” questions that we ask ourselves. “What if I pick the wrong school?” “What if I change my mind about my career?” “What if I can’t get a job when I graduate?” Looking back on my college education, there are a few things that I wish someone had told me when I started. Today, I share these tips with you!

Community college is not a terrible decision.

I ended up at community college for the first two years, which in my mind was pretty much the end of the world. I had gotten into my top-choice four year school with a decent scholarship, and wanted to take out loans and stay there. If I had made the decision to go to that school, I would be over $150,000 in debt right now, even with my scholarship. My current student loan debt is four figures.

The thing is, most of the community college professors teach at four-year schools nearby. So I got the same education I would have gotten elsewhere. I went on to get my bachelor’s at Rowan University, and that’s the name on my diploma. It doesn’t say in small print, “but she did county college for two years”. I’m not saying county is the choice for everyone. What I am saying is that it’s easy to pick a big name, get into a ton of debt, and regret the decision when you realize that you got the same job but a much larger monthly payment. Be money-wise when you pick a school.

It’s not always best to major in what you love.

Example: You love designing graphics, so you go to school and major in graphic design. Later, you want to start your own business, but you don’t know anything about business. It might have been prudent to major in business and take a few graphics design classes as electives. The fact is, many people who have something they love such as graphics, art, photography, vocals, or an instrument are self-taught. I knew I wanted to start a business, so I majored in Entrepreneurship. If I could start over, I would’ve picked a major where I learned more about accounting, business law, or public relations. I’m a natural entrepreneur, but you don’t “naturally” know things like the legalities behind starting an online store, how to keep your own books, or how to generate media attention. Consider this, and make sure that if you pick a major, you’ll be learning something useful and new, not just re-iterating something that you can already do well.

It’s a good idea to get a part-time job.

Unless you have a really awful work load, I think working part-time while in school was a great decision. Working prepared me for life more effectively than living on a meal plan and not working. Plus, I had money for going out, while a lot of my non-working friends were stuck on campus on the weekend. If you want to work but are concerned about study-time, try an on-campus job. They usually accommodate your school schedule and give you time off during finals.

Participate in student activities.

I participated in my school’s business plan competition, and I learned more through that process than I did in all of my business classes. In hindsight, I regret that I never participated in more of my school’s clubs and workshops. These don’t just supplement your learning – sometimes you learn MORE through these experiences. You’ll also build a valuable network, which definitely will come in handy if you are job hunting or looking to start a business.

You don’t have to get a job “in your field”.

In all likelihood, you are going to change your mind about what you want to do with your life. Or you’ll end up getting a job that is not related to your major at all. There is nothing wrong with this. God manages to use all of my decisions, even the ones I regret, to forward his will for my life.

If you love God, your life is his anyway. Don’t forget to let him guide your decisions!

As with any decision, you need to remember to prayerfully commit your plans to God. Make sure you are active in your walk with him, and have a willing heart to let the Spirit change your plans when you aren’t in line with what he wants.

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Lauren D'Alessandro
As the founder of The You Are Project’s print magazine and blog, Lauren is passionate about developing publications that inspire creativity and action. Lauren is the Editor-in-Chief of You Are REAL and the creator and manager of our website. Her dream is to continue using writing and publications as tools for communicating God’s love to the world. Keep up with her latest endeavors at laurendalessandro.com.