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College Tips to Help Save Time, Money, Aggravation, and Your Sanity

Updated on August 18, 2012

Let's begin with what you're all shooting for in the first place (I hope): Career satisfaction and success

In college, generally one thing is acquired: knowledge. Very rarely will you learn the critical skills and attitudes needed for success in your career or, for that matter, life (family, social, political, etc.) However, for now let's just stick to career concerns. To let you know it's not just me spouting inaccurate wisdom, I'll let Amanda Colwell, Unigo Campus Rep at Boston College give you a couple of critical after-the-fact "should haves."

  • "Didn't get an internship junior year or yet. Lesson learned: Most employers look for and expect work experience. Not having that experience makes for a rather unpleasant applying for jobs' experience."
  • "Waited too long to visit the career center. Lesson learned: People enter through the doors of the career center before senior year and those people seem to be the ones who get jobs first."
  • "Listened to my parents more than I should have. Lesson learned: So maybe their paying the bills, but it is your life and your future. You don't need to tell them everything if they are going to make you feel guilty about skipping class to go to the Boston Red Sox Parade then don't tell them. Some things are better left unsaid anyways."
  • Cared too much about my GPA. Lesson learned: Grades shmades. Your GPA will fall senior year, anyways. Spend your four years in college learning about yourself.

Number one, if you don't get experience along with your degree you are one big dummy. Sorry, I'm not holding back the punches here.

What? You thought your grades and that prestigious university would just let you walk in the door of a company falling all over themselves to get you? Think again. Actually saw a couple of posts on the Internet between students: "Yeah, with (name of prestigious university here) my ticket is punched. All I have to do is show up." Hey, even if that were true, that attitude (remember, one of those things you don't learn in college) needs to be put down quickly like a lame filly with an infected hoof.

Here’s a little aside for you to help with the “I’ve got it made” blues (well, you're thinking 'in the pink' but it's really 'blues.' You get the point.). I have a friend who is a dean. At one point several years ago, she was hiring for a full-time faculty position. She mentioned one candidate who happened to have an amazing academic background, and when he demonstrated his teaching skills, she was more than impressed. However, she said that he would never have a full-time position at the college, part-time maybe, but never full-time. Why? His attitude was the killer. “Mr. Prima Donna.” she said.” So for all you grade freaks, think again and with greater depth. On with the story.

Also, consider that after you get a couple years experience under your belt where you went to college is as important to those hiring as the size of your hat, which actually might even be more interesting to most if it's real colorful and in season.

Number two; you're at college to get into a career, so get to the career center by at least your junior year. Maybe even sooner if you know for sure what you want to do. Don't waste too much time with theory. Get into the real world as soon as possible. That's where it's happening.

Another consideration is grades, as mentioned above. Yes, way too many focus there. A big, big mistake; however, not entirely the student's fault. Students too often and too early work to the grade and not the knowledge (often purged after paper / test / exam), a result of too much parental and school pressure early on.

If you're not learning or don't care about what you're learning, its a waste of time. If you don't care about what you're learning, why are you taking the courses? This isn't please-the-parents or society or whoever time. You are the one who's going to be going to your job day after day, month after month, year after year. If you don't like it, you'll bail, as in get out. Consider the following statistic of those who've wasted four years in college and too many years after.

Within 5 to 10 years, 70% of college grads no longer work in a field related to their major.

Why? Too much listening to others and not themselves, or in your case yourself. Who knows best? Mother? No, not in this case. It's you.

Back to the grades issue. If you're not learning how to think critically, creatively, and intuitively, or how to synthesize existing knowledge with insight or experience, you will not last long in today's economy which requires adaptability and the ability to self-educate. With a potential of up to 10 careers staring you in the face over the span of your work life (high end estimate; more likely 3 to 5, but best to be prepared) in these economically turbulent, global job market times, you best learn how to think and learn well on the run. You're welfare and the welfare of your future and future family relies on it. Besides, what are you going to do? Go back for a four-year degree every five to seven years or so? I think not. And I think well, thank you. On with the issue at hand.

Number three, what do you know about the details of what you'll be doing on the job?

Time and again I know of and have heard of grads leaving their jobs months after beginning. Why? No one told them that, for instance, biology was fun to study but lab work day-in and day-out is stone cold, stifling-boring. Or that working as an attorney requires endless hours of paperwork and not that much time in the glory and limelight of the court scene. But if you've been to court, you know it's generally not that exciting. Nothing like TV.Well, unless it's on TV and Johnny Cochran has a camera pointed at him. But that's the exception.

Or maybe you'll be like the one student who interviewed three of her neighbors about their careers only to discover that their greatest concern had little to do with work but more to do with how the stress of their job and where they worked affected spouse and family.

There are so many intangibles that go beyond what's happening in the classroom or on the college campus. You need to do your homework, do your research, and really dig deep to see not only that what you're getting into is something you love, but what the day to day environment will be like of the career you desire. College is generally only 4 years. The working years span half your life. Know what you're getting into.

Last but not least . . .

This is a very complex issue. If you'd like to read more, go here: Got Education? How to Remedy Today's Failed American Dream.

Here's to your success.

Here's a good book to read for those looking to learn proper life-skills and attitudes:

Thick Face, Black Heart: The Warrior Philosophy for Conquering the Challenges of Business and Life (Critical attitudes and life-skills needed for any career / life.)

Who Needs College Anyway? Remarks by Charles Murray

Finally, here's some sobering thought put forth by Charles Murray, a self-confessed 'non-confrontational' guy and author of Real Education: Four Simple Truths for Bringing Schools Back to Reality. Keep an open mind because he's going to truthfully break down some myths about the bachelor's degree.


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