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Making the Most of College

making the most of collegeIt’s back to school time, and I can’t help but think about my college experience. I loved college! It was the first time I was on my own. I made incredible lifelong friendships, including my husband. It was 4 years of fun, but by graduation, I had no idea what I wanted to do for a career.

If there is one thing I could go back and change about my college experience it would be to find ways to make extra income and learn to invest my money. Today the cost of college is increasing at a rapid rate and getting into college is more competitive than ever.

1.      Apply for FAFSA. This is the best way to find out what kinds of financial aid you qualify for.

2.      Pay attention to your loans. I received a Loan that would be paid off if I majored in education or nursing and worked in a low-income area as a teacher or nurse. I majored in Political Science but it would have been best if I had double majored in education and Political Science. That would have saved me from eventually going back to earn my masters degree in education.

3.      Work…and start savings accounts now. It will be easier to start financial responsibility before you are completely on your own. I worked a part-time job at a local gift shop. It was one of my favorite jobs, but it didn’t pay much and I had a few hours a week. Online work would be perfect for college students. Check out this Ultimate List of Online Jobs.
4.      Find a way to be involved on campus and in your department. I wish I had taken the time to be a part of academic clubs and groups. The networking in those groups is great training for the networking you need to do post college.
5.      Take time to try different classes. I stuck to the classes in my degree. I wish I had taken time to try other fields of study. Now I love sewing, finances, and web design. Looking back I realize how much time I had available to me to try different things. It’s a gift to be able to spend time finding your niche.
6.      Find part-time work in the field you think you might be interested in. Even if it’s a runner or coffee cart worker. You have the chance to build relationships with people inside the field. It may even turn into an internship. Experience is valuable when you start applying for jobs.
7.      Look for unique grants and scholarships. I participated in a lot of community service in high school through my church and school organizations. I received a Bonner Scholarship for 4 years based off of my work and leadership skills earned through community service. There are so many different types of scholarships available. Think about how you spend your time and look for scholarships based off of your experiences.

College was an amazing experience for me, but I wish I had used that valuable time to create lasting financial habits and find my niche.