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?