In honor of all of our high school graduates, allow me to indulge myself in a little reminiscing of carefree times post high school graduation. No more mid terms, no more reports, and no more teachers' dirty looks...oh WHAT JOY it was to finally graduate high school. It felt like a thousand pounds lifted away from your shoulders and one step closer to adulthood. Congratulation Grads!!!
University for all 4 Years???
Most graduates dream of having University champagne tastes on a beer budget; and this beer budget includes going to piles of student debt. If I were you, I don't want to be married right out of college...to Sallie Mae that is! Which is exactly what will happen if you don't watch your budget. Remember, student loan debt is not bankrupt-able! There is no divorcing Sallie Mae.
A nice option to paying $20,000 and your first born for each year of University education is to take your first 2 years of undergraduate program in a community or junior college. Many of these colleges are local which will save on housing and food costs because you'll stay with mama and papa! Excited? Hey, it beats surrendering your first 2 years salary to your University. You still get your University degree, in addition, many of these programs offer assistance and seamless transition to the University of your choice.
Textbooks...the big ripoff
I came into a rude awakening of just how much text books cost. I remember once paying over $120 for one of 3 books for a class of mine. In fact, I think the books cost more than the classes themselves. But get this...they tell you "oh don't worry about it because you can always sell it back to us at the end of the term"...for 5 cents on the dollar!!! The 5 cents on the dollar they won't tell you...ok, maybe its an exaggeration, but not much. How do I get into this textbook business?
Look to Amazon for cheap text books, and the nice thing is that you can also sell your textbooks online and use free shipping. In addition, you may get a better deal for buying 1 or 2 editions older, and supplement this with the content you can get from the internet.
Finish in 4 years
This is becoming a rarity, it seems like the average completion of most 4 year degrees is a little over 5 years...why not call it a 5 year degree? Is this some ploy to get more tuition revenue? I wish someone would have told me how tough it would be to get into some required classes; and wished I have never heard that 16 units was considered full load. I would have saved an entire year's worth of tuition if I was running at 20 units at a time. Bottom line, plot out the classes and number of units ahead of time to complete your desired degree. Find out the most impacted courses and try to get those completed early. In fact, sit in the first day of class and get yourself on the wait list. Believe me, it is tough having to take a semester just for 1 course in order to get your diploma.
Coffee and NoDoz...No Go!
I tried to be smart and outwork anyone during college. I would spend extra hours studying so I can master the subjects faster than my "competition." Type A anyone? I remember during one evening preparing for a huge mid term, I sat at my work desk beside our 19" Cathode Ray Tube television, in all of its glory. The boobtube in consecutive order, played Friends, Futurama and Beavis and Butthead. I can't miss that, I had to watch first, until it became late in the evening. No problem I thought, I brewed myself a cup of coffee, take a couple of these miracle NoDoz pills and I'm good to go.
All throughout the night, my heart palpitated, my mind wandered and jumped from 1 idea to the next. I played video games, watched Tv, read magazines, because I had all night! It was tough to focus at 2AM but boy, did I have a lot of energy...until the hour of the big mid term. The mid-term from hell....I was dragging and I looked at that as the turning point of never using these miracle pills again. Suffice to say, I didn't score well in that particular test.
Is there a Top Ramen cookbook?
Well in fact there is...amazing. I wished I knew how to prepare Top Ramen 120 different ways because it will become a staple of your diet...
Are Fraternities like Porky's?
You see, growing up I watched pretty much all of the Porky's movies, Revenge of the Nerds and developed a sense that Fraternities are all about parties, orgies and mayhem. Being a good and morally righteous person...ahem, ahem, I avoided them. I wish someone told me that fraternities would also be about developing networks, lifelong friend ships, support system, and open up opportunities to help in the community. Fraternities and Sororities, they are not such a bad thing.
Find all the Cheap Eats
In my last year of college, I decided to turn vegetarian...who does that? Not a real vegetarian, mind you, because I loved eggs and drank milk. Powerless in finding out the best eats near the University (remember Yelp wasn't around back then), I only found out about White Lotus on the corner of 10th and Santa Clara Street that had the most divine Garlic Ginger Crispy Tofu, during my last few weeks of college. Who knows, if I would have found this place sooner, I could have still been a pseudo vegetarian and weigh 10 pounds less.
Survey your campus surrounding for the best eats!
Where can I take a nap anyway?
It will happen..the only way for you to graduate is to take an early morning 7am Business Ethics class, followed by a 1PM Biology Lab. A long break in between classes but not long enough to go home and get some sleep. Frustrating. The solution, scope out the student union, particularly the basement areas for the best sleeping spots. Find your little nook and claim your stake. Your clothes might end up smelling a little, but you will wake up refreshed for your afternoon Biology class.
Beware of the $2000 shirt...
You will see them, believe me you will see them. Credit Card companies hawking their plastic with a come hither at me look tempting you with their "free" chotchkis. Just complete the application and you get your free t-shirt and water bottle. Did they really prepare you in high school around the proper use of credit cards and debt? I didn't think so. Who can resist, "free" money and "free" chotchkis for a broke college kid...sign me up. Remember, you'll have to pay back this debt, and by the time I paid off my post college credit card balance, my "free" t-shirt only cost me $2k.
Credit Cards...stay away from them
Sip and savor
Having now lived 40 years under my belt, I can't help recall some of the best moments of my life pointing to my years in college. We are so in a hurry to get life started, get a job, buy material possessions that you fail to realize how fun the actually journey can be; than merely reaching the destination. Savor the time with your newfound friends, freedom to explore, fail and succeed in trial and error. Enjoy the experience.
What about you...what are the top things you wish you would have known before going to college?
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