My College Mistakes Everyone Should Avoid

My college experience was a blast and I learned a lot of financial lessons the hard way. I believe college students grow and mature faster as college students then most other times in their life.

Students arrive on campus pumped up for all the good times to come, so oblivious to their responsibilities. Students are juggling many life lessons all at once whether they like it or not. Everything from their faith to laundry, cooking meals, paying bills, working part time, and of course academics.

While at college I learned many important lessons and if I ever had a chance to do it all over again there are three financial mistakes I would avoid.

I wouldn’t work part time during the semester.

My parents tried to teach me to be independent as a kid and pay for my own things. At age 11 I was working my own paper route and the rest as they say was history. When I got to college I got a good job right away.

My school had a good reputation with UPS and I was able to get a part time job there right away. I was rolling in the dough as a new freshmen student. However, after a few months it became obvious that this part time gig might not be the best choice.

The money was nice but the late nights, no study time, and no time with friends was a drag. I worked every weekday evening so I couldn’t have dinner with my friends or participate in any prime time school activities. Academically it was also hurting my study time and I found myself behind on many assignments.

If I could dial up my time machine and go back to college I would tell myself,

“Work your butt off in the summer working overtime and then ration your earnings throughout the school year. You’ll be able to focus on your studies, hang out with your friends, and still be able to pay your bills.”

I would fill out every form I could to bring in extra scholarship money.

Your first year as a freshmen you have it pretty easy with scholarships. Many schools will give your scholarship money just for showing up in hopes of keeping you around for a few years.

During my sophomore year I realized I was going to have to work harder. I learned that there were different scholarships available for returning students. In fact there were hundreds that I could apply for. They were hard to find and there was a lot of paperwork to fill out so I put it off till I had some free time.

That free time never came and as quickly as I learned about these scholarships they were all spoken for. I had no choice but to look at more government loans to finish my education.

If I could dial up my time machine and go back to college I would tell myself,

“Do whatever it takes to apply for scholarships your school is offering. Don’t wait for some free time, make time today!”

I would do everything in my power not to take on a private loan.

One of my biggest mistakes I made in college I am still paying for right now. Because I didn’t get around to applying for scholarships there was a big gap in my education funding. With my government options also maxed out there seemed to be only one choice left, the dreaded private loan.

At the time it seemed like that was my only option. As a finance major I knew all the potential downsides but the upside of having a degree seemed worth it. The interest rate was very high, almost double what the government wanted to charge me and to this day they are extremely difficult to work with.

If I could dial up my time machine and go back to college I would tell myself,

“Work you butt off in the summer and save every penny. Apply for all the scholarships you can. Do whatever you can to avoid taking on a private loan because they play by an entirely different set of rules.”

Have you made any financial mistakes in college? What did you learn from your experiences?

This is a guest post from Brandon Crombar author of Shared Financial Success. If you enjoy reading or sharing financial success tips then you would enjoy other posts at SharedFinancialSuccess.com.

24 Responses to My College Mistakes Everyone Should Avoid

  1. Michelle says:

    I wouldn’t have taken college loans out. But I am on track to have them gone by next year.

  2. jk says:

    undergrad I did good. I worked multiple PT jobs and had lots of scholarship money. I did have loans but I went to a private school and the amount was less than half a year of college so that made me feel good. I should not have allowed it. Then i went to grad school. I bought the myth get loans you will get a good job and took all loans possible. I am now over 80K in deb and am not making $$ to pay them off….

    • Brandon says:

      Many students in the last few years are going through many of the same struggles you are. We were all told to get an education and then get a good job. The recession had other plans. The good news is that no one can ever take away your education! Keep you head up and keep looking, you’ll beat this.

  3. Poor Student says:

    My mistake first year was not taking a part time job. You are at the other extreme of working far too much, but I think I can handle 10-15 hours of paid work a week on top of my school activities and free time.

    I also need to apply for all the scholarships I can get, that was one big thing that I definitely should have done and will do this summer. I just pushed them back until it was too late.

    And I have a private line of credit that I am not going to use but I am going to apply for a government loan which is interest free until 6 months after I graduate. This gives me a lot of time to invest this money and, increase it, then pay back just the principal in four years.

    • Brandon says:

      You’re right, it’s good to avoid extremes like working too much or not working at all.

      It takes a lot of time to apply for those scholarships but your wallet will thank you. You are already well ahead of many of your peers with your frugal mindset. Good luck this summer filling out those applications.

  4. nice post, your advice also applies to life not just college :)

  5. I didn’t work my freshman year. I think that was the right choice. It was an extremely difficult transition from high school to college and many engineering students got kicked out that first year. After the first year, I started working part time.

    • Brandon says:

      Sounds like you made the right choice. Each major requires a different studying intensity. My roommate was an engineer also and he didn’t have time to work part time but he got good grades and rationed his summer income.

  6. Christa says:

    I also wish I hadn’t worked my freshman year. I was living in the dorms, so I really didn’t need extra cash or a car. I would have connected with my peers better if I’d had more time. Sigh. I became more balanced when i transferred schools and lived outside the dorms, though, so it all evened out.

    • Brandon says:

      I know how you feel. Some schools don’t even allow freshmen to bring their cars. Maybe that’s not such a bad idea. I’m glad to hear things evened out for you. My college experience got better as it went along too.

  7. I actually found working during the semester helped me. It kept me from going out and spending money and it also helped me learn time management skills. The hard part for me was learning to stretch out the spending of my summer job income. I would head to school with a large bank balance, but had to continually remind myself that I need the money for the entire year.

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  9. Dividend says:

    I was working while my semesters..But some of them even i have made and i would like to admit…please avoid them.

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