Yearbooks are being signed. College athletes are celebrating “signing days.” Senior pictures are going out to loved ones announcing that young adults everywhere will soon be tossing their mortarboards and marching onto the next chapters of their lives as pomp and circumstance ushers them out of their parents’ homes. I’m proud to say that my niece is among those proud graduates, and as watch her prepare for college, I can’t help but unleash a set of caveats–things I wish I knew when I was in her shoes:
1.) Do not let anyone tell you that student loans are “good debt.” You’ll hear over and over again that student loans are “an investment in your future.” That may be true, but no debt is “good.” When you borrow money, you are paying more for something than it actually costs. Why would you spend $10 for something that costs $7? The same logic goes for your college degree. Save money. Apply for scholarships. Get a part time job. If you’re graduating with $20,000 in student loan debt, you’ll need to rethink your definition of “investment.” Take this advice and apply it to credit card debt, too.
2.) When there’s free food on campus, take advantage of it. You don’t look like a mooch. Free food is there for you to eat. Extra bonus: you’ll meet friends who can teach you their strategies for finding more free food. (This is coming from a girl who got very creative with condiments and saltine crackers that came with soup.) It doesn’t matter if it’s the Baptist Student Union or the Chinese Student Association offering food. If it’s there and it’s free, it’s for you to take. And plus, you can’t study on an empty stomach. If you can’t study, you won’t get good grades. If you don’t get good grades, you’ll fail your classes. If you fail your classes, you’ll never get a diploma. So really, in short, your college career depends on free food.
3.) Don’t spend a lot of money on entertainment. You’re on a college campus! There will be free entertainment all over the place. College campuses are filled with people trying to express themselves through art shows, concerts and performances. Go to these events!
4.) Learn about your college campus and the surrounding community. I loved my college town. Your experience will be so much better when you know the stories about the architecture and legends from students who have come before you. This is the place where you will be spending a good chunk of your life. You’ll want some kind of connection to it.
5.) The appropriate amount of time to spend on a college campus getting your Bachelors Degree is 4-5 years. Don’t rush through it. Take your time, but don’t wear out your welcome. No one wants to be that 7 year senior who graduates with a General Studies Degree.
Congratulations Class of 2012!