Graduation season is upon us. It’s been over a decade since my high school graduation and there are many things I wish I could go back and tell myself. As the first college graduate in my immediate family, I knew very little about the process, how to go about choosing a college, a major, financial aid, etc. At 18, all I knew was I wanted to get far away from home (and my crazy family) and establish independence. I knew it would be more expensive to go out-of-state, but that didn’t really mean anything to me because I could get student loans anywhere. I only applied to two colleges; both were six to eight hours away from home, both offered an exciting new adventure and both accepted me and offered student loans to cover tuition. Ten years later, here are seven things I wish I had known.
- Unless you are getting a scholarship for an out-of-state school, stay in your home state for college.
- It’s ok to not go to a big university for the first couple of years.
- Picking a major is not that important.
- If you are an introvert, be sure to join a club or group where you can meet people and force yourself out of your comfort zone.
- What happened in high school stays in high school.
- If you make mistakes and learn from them, then they were mistakes worth making.
- Take a personal finance course or budgeting session.
At in-state public colleges, tuition is much cheaper, and although you feel the need for independence, one hour away is just as effective as six. After one semester, I decided to return home because the cost was too expensive especially when I didn’t know what major was perfect for me.
Most of the classes you will be taking for the first two years are general education courses. If you are tight on cash, go to a local community college to knock those out. Many community colleges offer tuition benefits and guarantee acceptance into state universities if you complete an associate’s degree.
If you have no idea what you want to do for the rest of your life, it’s ok. Resist the pressure of committing to a major you may hate if you are not completely sure. This is one of the plus sides of having those two years to explore majors and your interests while you take the general education courses.
The transition to a new place is hard for everyone, but this is especially true for introverts. Meeting new people, going to social events where you don’t know anyone or just having to deal with a roommate you don’t know can be challenging. Be sure to put yourself out there and meet people. This is where a lot of lifelong friendships begin.
Beginning college is one of those “clean slate” moments in life. You get to recreate yourself and be completely you without anyone knowing your past. People won’t know if you were the class clown, the shy girl in the back or the teacher’s pet. You will just be you.
Don’t be too hard on yourself for mistakes you have made, whether it is the college you chose, the date you took to prom or the car you drove way too fast. All of these decisions made really do make you wiser. Plus, should you really be held accountable for decisions made when your brain wasn’t even fully developed?
Budgeting is a foundational life skill. It is important to be able to earn money and manage it well. Becoming an adult comes with a lot of responsibility. If you don’t manage your money well, the consequences could stick around for years to come.
You know what they say, “Hindsight is 20/20.” Take my word for it, these tips are good advice, and I hope they will be helpful to you. Best of luck as you move into this new and exciting chapter of life!