College campuses will be filling up in the next few weeks as classes soon begin. Regardless of what year you are, below are four tips to help navigate you through your college career. While they may not seem very important at the time, they have a profound effect on your future.
Stay Out of Credit Card Debt
This one should be a no brainer to everyone. Just because the credit card companies start sending you applications or are on your campus talking to you, it doesn’t mean that you have to open a card. Sure they may give you a credit line of $5,000, but that is only because they want you to charge $5,000 because they know you will most likely be paying it pay slowly over time since you don’t have a job. That small monthly payment means a lot of interest to them. I may be dating myself, but remember back to watching cartoons as a kid and when the main character would be hungry, they would see a cow and it would turn into a steak? When credit card companies see college students (including you) they see dollar signs.
Note that I have no issue with you opening up a credit card to start building up a credit history, but just use it wisely. You don’t want to have to work two summer jobs just to pay off your credit card debt or graduate and have your paycheck going to the credit card companies as you dig yourself out of debt.
Limit Student Loans as Much as Possible
Same as above with avoiding credit card debt, you should avoid student loans as much as possible. This means foregoing the work study job on campus and getting a better job off-campus. If you really like your work study job, find other ways to earn some money. Use that money either to pay for classes and avoid student loans, or put the money in a separate savings account and build it up. When you graduate and you have to start paying back your loans, use this money to make a dent in the debt. This should only be done if you have a government loan that does not accrue interest while in school. Otherwise, it makes sense to pay the debt as you go.
Having trouble thinking of ways to earn extra income? Corey posted five ideas for extra money here, and I posted five more ideas here. And if you are planning on going to grad school, you can pay for it in cash.
Skip the Party and Study….
Sometimes in life, you just have to do things you don’t want to do. This includes studying. There were times when the last thing I wanted to do was study. It was hard to motivate myself to do so. I would open a book and my mind would wander. Eventually, I found my focus. You can too. I know it’s hard to think about life 10 or 20 years into the future, but in this scenario, you have to. You need to study to get good grades. Your higher GPA may be the difference between you getting a job and it being offered to someone else. It could also be the difference in getting a job that has a starting salary of $30,000 versus $35,000. Don’t think that is a big difference? Think again. Assuming a 3% annual raise, in 10 years with the $30,000 job you will be earning $40,300 versus $47,000 from the other job.
….But Don’t Skip Every Party
You learn in college both in and out of the classroom. My college experience was awesome. I wouldn’t trade it in for anything. I learned so much that prepared me for my career and I learned a lot about myself too. Make sure you take advantage of college and everything it has to offer. Don’t spend every waking moment in the library studying. Let loose once in a while and have some fun! Take it from me: once you graduate and start working 40+ hours a week, every week, you’ll wish you could go to college for your entire life. But you can’t. So make the most of it while you can.