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I Wish I'd Known This When I First Went to College!

Updated on December 28, 2017

“Why should I care about a college education? Look at all these graduates who can’t get a job in this economy! Plus they have all those student loans to pay off! The only reason to go is to party and put off the time when you have to become a responsible adult! Plus being a minority (or female), what are my chances of graduating, anyway?”

This is a common sentiment nowadays. While it’s popular to blame the government, people must consider that as recently as the 1950s, a college education was a privilege for wealthy children. Those who didn’t have a rich daddy to finance it pretty much had to rely on the community to scrape together resources, which they only did for stellar high school students. Since the 1960s, all sorts of options abound, and now virtually anyone can go to a university. On the downside, this has produced a lot of people who are “overqualified” for the only jobs they’re fit to do. Plus, look at the statistics; only 54% of entering freshman graduate within 6 years, 60% of college graduates don’t work in their chosen field, and two thirds of students today graduate with student loan debt, the average amount being $50,000.

Obviously, more opportunities do not guarantee success. So how can you make the most of your university experience? Here are ten things to do.

It's not that hard to go from high school...
It's not that hard to go from high school... | Source
..;to the University.
..;to the University. | Source

1) Make your plans and choose your major BEFORE you go. A main reason there are so many university graduates who can’t get a job is because they didn’t make serious plans. One of the worst mistakes you can commit is to go without a clear cut idea of what you want. You may not even need a university degree; depending on your career choice, a business or trade school may be more appropriate. If you really want to go and can’t decide on a major, it is best to take general ed courses at a junior college. They’re much cheaper, and they have counselors who can help you choose a career. (The difference between a college and a university is that a university is a collection of colleges, and you can obtain a 4 year degree there.)

2) Keep your high school grades up! No matter how good a high school student you are, you will need a new level of study skills once you enter the university, so the better you are here, the easier the transition will be. Also, high grades will get you more scholarships and grants, and make it easier to enter the university of your choice.

However, it takes A LOT of careful planning to reach the stars!
However, it takes A LOT of careful planning to reach the stars! | Source

3) Get all the scholarships and grants you can. Universities are expensive. Besides tuition, there are books, student fees, meals, transportation expenses, dorm rent, parking fees, ad-nauseum. Campus jobs are part time and don’t pay well. The last thing you need is to be worrying about expenses while you’re trying to study; that can bring down your grades, and hamper your social life as well. Sure, there are student loans, but do you really want to start your post graduate life with a huge load of debt? So research your scholarship options carefully long before you go.

Many are based on grade point average, sports, or various activities you can take part in while still in high school. Others are need-based. You can even locate a number of obscure ones offered by various companies, or which reward according to your ethnic background, or if you’re related to a famous person from another century. Hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of scholarships and grants are never claimed, either because no one knows about them, or they don’t bother to apply. Seeking them out may be difficult, but not nearly as bad as the results of not doing so!

P.S. Regarding part time low wage campus jobs - make sure you take courses in high school that will enable you to earn a living wage! Not only will that help you cover university expenses, it will provide a boost to getting an internship (more on that later).

4) Learn how to study.Most universities have study groups, tutoring services, and seminars available. Take advantage of them. They’re usually free, and will help you get the most for your tuition money. Rather than laboring over a book only to fail the exam the next day, they teach you how to pick out highlights and get more studying done in less time. You will retain the knowledge better for when you graduate and work in your field, and in the meantime, you will acquire research skills to gain additional knowledge if you suddenly find you need it. (Quick note; you can visit community college study groups while still in high school!)

Maintaining high grades while attending the university will also enable you to get into graduate school if you choose to go; most graduate schools require a minimum GPA of 3.0.

5) If you’re given a lot of homework, rejoice! In the past, students had to listen to lectures, and were given 3 midterms and a final in a semester. Do you realize how hard it is to learn and do well on tests under those circumstances? Homework helps reinforce what’s being taught, and you’ll retain it long after graduation. (Incidentally, this applies to high school as well!) If you don't get a lot of homework, invest in a textbook study guide. You may even be able to create one yourself, with the questions at the end of each chapter.

6) Take advantage of what the library, social clubs, public speakers etc., have to offer. Universities are fabulous places for learning about the world! When I lived in Silicon Valley, my favorite activity was hanging out at Stanford University. I joined the Stanford Outing Club, which was run out of their International Center, and got to explore all sorts of really neat hidden corners of the San Francisco Bay Area. We visited hot springs in the back country of Big Sur, camped at Mt.Lassen, and hiked to the epicenter of the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake. The International Center hosted a dinner from various countries in the world every Sunday evening; it only cost $5, and later on, they would show a movie for free. And this was just one part of it! Stanford also has an African American dorm which puts on a classy club dance one night in late January every year, and a French dorm that runs a restaurant during winter quarter. Stanford Memorial Church has non-denominational services with thoughtful sermons preached there. Bishop Desmond Tutu even gave a speech there once, in the mid 1980s! And President Clinton’s daughter attended there in the fall of 1994. I could go on and on about Stanford University, but that would fill an entire hub. Just keep your eyes and ears open to what’s happening on your university campus. I guarantee, you’ll never run out of things to do!

P.S. For those escaping the ghetto, this is the best opportunity for that! The most important thing to remember is to leave ghetto values (racism, narrow-mindedness, cynicism, troublemaking tendencies) behind. For women who are man-hunting, this is also an excellent opportunity, but make sure you remain on track and get your degree, or you could wind up stranded later if your husband decides you’re too much of a liability and leaves you with the kids.

P.P.S. Contrary to popular opinion, it's not necessarily the type of degree that's most likely to land a good job. It's social skills. I once had a co-worker who had majored in Art, and was working part time drawing diagrams for biology textbooks. She was earning a great living, and they kept trying to get her to work full time. On the other hand, I met a Stanford student who had a Bachelor's, Master's, and PhD in Mechanical Engineering who had just gotten his first job - packing boxes! SOCIAL SKILLS AND NETWORKING IS KEY!!!

7) The best time to tour overseas is the summer of your sophomore year. The best time to study overseas is your junior year. When it comes to living in a foreign country on a budget, nothing beats studying overseas! Often, tuition is the same as your home campus, and it is covered by scholarships and grants. To facilitate your choice, many travel companies, such as Club Europa, offer budget tours for college students. Many people don’t get a chance to visit foreign countries once they’ve begun their work lives, so take advantage of this while you can!

Touring during the summer of your sophomore year and studying overseas your junior year will facilitate your graduating from the institution you began, which keeps you more on track.

8) GET AN INTERNSHIP!!! Especially in this economy, it can be really hard to get a job without experience, so get it while you’re still in college. This will also reinforce what you’re learning in class. Just one thing to beware of; there are a lot of bogus internships out there that don’t teach you anything, and they just mess with you, setting you up to fail. Get plenty of counseling from your professors and the career center before you choose one.

The late great Michael Jackson (who broke all sorts of racist barriers long before he reached 30, and became a technological whiz with a mere high school degree) greatly emphasized the importance of learning everything you can, and being better at your subject than everyone else. This was the secret to his success. So don't limit yourself by doing the bare minimum to get by; make the most of your university experience! Get an internship, and demand the best!

9) While in college, save money for your moving and living expenses after graduation. Where will you live? Do you want to go back home, or stay in your university town? This is important, because you will need moral support during the difficult months of adjustment after graduation. Financially, you need to be ready, so you won’t have to crash at someone’s house and be at their mercy. These costs to move into your own place should be included: first month’s rent plus deposit, enough money to turn on utilities, furniture for your new place, and at least 1 month’s worth of expenses as emergency savings in the bank (absolute minimum $1000). Being financially secure will enable you to better focus on your new job. You should already be working; that will serve as your credit rating to move into an apartment. Most require your monthly earnings be three times the rent.

10) Remember, your learning does not end when you graduate; it is only the beginning.The real learning starts afterwards; college merely prepares you for assessing new situations and dealing with them. While in college, you acquire your knowledge through books and lab experiments, and assess how well you do through tests. In real life, you're given the test without the schoolwork, and failure involves factors far worse than a mere letter grade.

Example: a doctor treating someone with a particular disease needs to know what he’s doing. Does the patient need surgery, medication, or simply a change in lifestyle? Perhaps a combination of all three? The doctor can choose to have the patient try each of these options, but if any of them result in permanent disability, the doctor could be sued and have his reputation ruined – then all that education, expense, and years of training go down the drain. If the patient dies as a result of faulty advice given by the doctor, he could be held criminally negligent. This doesn’t apply strictly to the medical field; others on which public trust depends, such as lawyers, tax accountants, farmers, ranchers, even buyers for department and grocery stores, need to understand the cause and effect of decisions they make. Not doing so may cost them their livelihoods, or far worse.

In other words, once you enter the working world, you'd better know your stuff; either that, or be able to accurately research it!

I have presented ten things to do to have a successful college experience. I only have one don’t; here it is.

Do not - I repeat, DO NOT!!! get involved in the keg party scene!

Colleges are unfortunately notorious for frat and toga parties, underage binge drinking, wild orgies, and the like, but remember, that's not what you're there for! Sure, there are a lot of older people who laugh, even brag, about their “misspent youth”, but students who indulge in it usually drop out. Those who manage to graduate often can’t find jobs in their fields, and are "overqualified" for what they can do, because of lack of planning; thus, their degree winds up being a hindrance rather than an asset. Many become alcoholics, even drug addicts if they mess with it. Also, most college rapes occur in that setting. As you can see, this scene is worse than worthless. You have nothing to gain by it, and a lot to lose.

If you're busy with the abovementioned 10 ideas, you won't have time to waste on this, anyway. Some people may tell you that you can always go back and finish your degree, or get another one, but believe me, it's NOT THAT SIMPLE!!! There are few scholarships for people who are partway through college, and NONE for those who already have degrees; you need student loans for those, and the government has put a cap on how many times you can borrow. Also, there is major discrimination against people who have degrees and are returning for something more useful. So it is EXTREMELY important you do it right the first time!

I wish I'd known all this when I first set out to go to the university! I'll spare you the nasty details. All I will say is, MAKE THE MOST OF YOUR OPPORTUNITIES!!!


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© 2013 Yoleen Lucas


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    • Say Yes To Life profile imageAUTHOR

      Yoleen Lucas 

      3 years ago from Big Island of Hawaii

      Word55 - yes, we need to take care of the spiritual, but since we live in the physical world, we need to take care of that too!

      Mel Carrier - lol! Yes, UHK is a great party school, but the hangover is NOT WORTH IT!!!

      Glenn Stok - there is a little room for messing up in college. My brother had a rough sophomore year due to personal problems, but he still made it into medical school. Be glad that in spite of your issues, you were able to earn a good living wage. I heard of someone who had a PhD in Anthropology who had to work as a telephone solicitor. Some college graduates have wound up homeless.

    • Glenn Stok profile image

      Glenn Stok 

      3 years ago from Long Island, NY

      I messed up my first year in college. I didn't know what I really wanted to do for a career. Since I did have a creative side to me, people told me to take mechanical engineering. And that's what I did the first year. But it wasn't what I wanted to do.

      Your first point in your hub was to choose a plan before you go. That is so important if you know what you want to accomplish.

      Fortunately in my first year I discovered my interest in computer programming and switched my major, which I continued on to achieve a bachelors and masters degree.

      But even that was a mistake. Looking back on it, I realize I wasted my graduate years since I should not have repeated the same major for both degrees. I learned nothing new since it was all repetitive.

      Being that I later went into my own business it would have been better if I took Business Administration. But who knew!

    • Mel Carriere profile image

      Mel Carriere 

      3 years ago from San Diego California

      You've got some really great advice here, obviously gleaned from the University of Hard Knocks, which is a great party school, from what I understand. Excellent article!

    • word55 profile image

      Al Wordlaw 

      4 years ago from Chicago

      Hi Yo, with a life of faith, I've managed to become quite blessed and successful through my God-given talents. You did an excellent job in this hub. You've given great insight into what education should be all about. A spiritual education of Bible truth is just as invaluable. If both are incorporated then there is a sure winner in life. Thank you so much for sharing. God bless!

    • Say Yes To Life profile imageAUTHOR

      Yoleen Lucas 

      5 years ago from Big Island of Hawaii

      EasyExercise - congratulations! I checked out your article on stretching. Yes, your career is a celebration of life, and your site reflects it!

    • Say Yes To Life profile imageAUTHOR

      Yoleen Lucas 

      5 years ago from Big Island of Hawaii

      Sorry to hear of your experience, stbrians! In the Olden Days, children often had to drop out after the 8th grade, or even earlier in some instances, to work and help support the family. Because of their lack of education, they were stuck in low-wage jobs for a lifetime, and passed on poverty to future generations. That's why America passed laws against child labor, and required students to attend school up until 10th grade.

      Developing countries are still struggling with this; fortunately, things are getting better globally.

    • stbrians profile image

      Meshack Bwoyele Keya 

      5 years ago from Vihiga County,Western Kenya

      Well informed people do actually make informed judgement. Going to university , graduating and going even further is very healthy. I pity myself because I had to work due to the poverty in my family. I have missed great things in life due to this. Yet life has to go on.

    • Say Yes To Life profile imageAUTHOR

      Yoleen Lucas 

      5 years ago from Big Island of Hawaii

      Congratulations on graduating with no debt! That's no mean feat in this day and age!

      A great advantage of work study is being able to get experience in your field; it can be like a built-in internship. Great going!

    • TimArends profile image

      Timothy Arends 

      5 years ago from Chicago Region

      Good hub. Wow, $26,000 on average of student debt! That is pretty shocking! I graduated from Berea College in Kentucky with a work-study program and I had virtually no student debt. I absolutely agree with you that learning does not stop after you graduate; it is a lifelong process.

    • Easy Exercise profile image

      Kelly A Burnett 

      6 years ago from United States

      Say Yes To Life,

      My first career was directly related to my major. My career now is more of a celebration of life.

      I love your guidance. We actively have encouraged our sons (my step sons) to pursue the internship but we have not been very good at being vocal about overseas travel. You have taught me something because when I traveled overseas - I did learn much more than college could ever have taught me.

      Excellent article. Only one item I would add is to know your GPA and also to learn and track how far away from honors and high honors you are.

      My Mother never impressed upon me the importance of GPA - she graduated maxima cum laude, had full scholarships and choose to become an entrepreneur. I decided to pursue the entrepreneurship in my second career. Back to the basics - grade point matters - if you are going to do a job, do it well and how where you are and where you could be with your GPA.

      GREAT article. Voted up! Very sound advice. Thank you!

    • Say Yes To Life profile imageAUTHOR

      Yoleen Lucas 

      6 years ago from Big Island of Hawaii

      You are really lucky! My experience is when people return for a second degree, they're often discriminated against. Congratulations for having wonderful grandparents!

      I'd like to make an additional note on Point #10: recently, I had cataract surgery, and it went with flying colors. I developed problems when I tried to go off the eye drop medications. Neither my surgeon nor regular eye doctor could figure out what was wrong; I had to do the research myself on the web, then beg my regular doctor to listen to me. I told him my problem looked like macular degeneration. He said it couldn't be that, because that comes on gradually rather than suddenly. He did some tests, and discovered it was macular edema. He wound up sending me to an eye doctor who specializes in the macula, and he put me back on the eye drops; the problem has cleared up tremendously since. My new doctor said I had gone off the medications too fast, that I needed to spend a month gradually weaning myself off.

      In college, the textbook gives you the answers; in real life, you have to figure out the riddle on your own.

      P.S. I'm sticking to this new doctor!

    • CraftytotheCore profile image


      6 years ago

      Such great tips! When I went to college the first time, I was totally prepared. However, it surprised me that I was the youngest in my class. Most of the other students were all about 10 years older than me and already working in a professional career. They were going back to school to get the degree. So, I found it twice as challenging because the instructors really catered to them. Most of them already knew how to do the work. I didn't.

      The second round of college, I was taking a completely different major. It was much tougher. I had a full-time job, so studying wasn't as fun as it was after high school when I wasn't working in my career.

      Getting children in to good study habits when they are young is key. My grandparents had a structured study routine for me because neither of them ever attended college. In fact, they never finished high school. My grandfather worked as a manager at a plant for almost 40 years, and made 6 figures without a degree. In today's world, that's not as heard of.

    • Alexanderium profile image

      Khaled Alayesh 

      6 years ago

      How come the conversation is informal.

    • paulynice roldens profile image

      Roldens Paulynice 

      6 years ago from Boca Raton, Florida

      Okay....Yea my friends their lips are moving...

    • Say Yes To Life profile imageAUTHOR

      Yoleen Lucas 

      6 years ago from Big Island of Hawaii

      You know how to tell if a politician is lying, right? Their lips are moving! LOL!

      It's true that America has a lot of bullshit going on, but at least you have SOME opportunities. It's like comparing Silicon Valley with Oakland. Silicon Valley has a lot of underhanded bullshit going on, but at least you can get a job and pay the bills there. Oakland is cheaper, but there's very little work, and it's extremely dangerous. You're more likely to wind up homeless there, and then you're really SCREWED. Wheras, it's less likely to happen in Silicon Valley, and even if you did, you have better options.

      I'll be looking for your Domestic Violence artlcle.

    • paulynice roldens profile image

      Roldens Paulynice 

      6 years ago from Boca Raton, Florida

      It would be a short article....

    • paulynice roldens profile image

      Roldens Paulynice 

      6 years ago from Boca Raton, Florida

      I will publish an article about Domestic violence on tuesday nigh after 9:30 AM...I hope you read it...

    • paulynice roldens profile image

      Roldens Paulynice 

      6 years ago from Boca Raton, Florida

      Statistics show that more than 50% of college graduates last year can' t find job or a college level job...Fuck america.....also accroding to Romny in the second presidential debate....all politicians are liar.....they always say...I am gonnan do this and tht ...this and tht...and nothing changwe...fuck them....

    • paulynice roldens profile image

      Roldens Paulynice 

      6 years ago from Boca Raton, Florida

      I am not the only one my friend who experience that same trouble man...College life is not easy...The only thing that hurt is that when you spend all those time in school and when you face those challenges , you try to overcome them.....but you get out in is a waste of time, money, and effort...Mny other students experience the same trouble tht I experience.. As stated in my article, College students fail or drop out due to financial problems. “Eighty four percent of college students need more than one source of cash to keep up. Two-third of them say they work part time or more to help pay for college...almost sixty percent of them rely on loans to help with college costs, nearly fifty percent of them say that they are uncomfortable with the debt, and majority of students at four year colleges say they routinely feel at least a little worried about having enough money to make it through the week” (Cass) (see next fig.) . These statistics can make us realize that most college students need a lot of money or have to work or have to take loans in order to support themselves or to pay for college. And loans or college costs are not the only characteristics that negatively affect many college students. Stress or anxiety from work or a lack of money also affects many of them by causing them serious problems. According to Professor Bernice Andrews, “The study that was conducted by some researchers from the Royal Holloway University shows that financial difficulties among students are having a direct impact on their mental health which then leads on to reductions in their academic performance” (qtd. in Hall).

      The need to work also affects dropout rates. As a matter of fact, “Seventy one percent of students who had quit college said that work was a factor in the decision, more than fifty percent said it was a major factor, and about thirty five percent of those who dropped out said that they tried to balance work and study and found it too stressful” (Ashburn). Silvia Gilardi and Chira Gugliemetti argue that it is evident that employment can serve as a barrier from prolonging education, and non-traditional students or students who are working do not have adequate time to work together with the faculty members; as a result, they may encounter serious obstacles on their ways (49).

    • Say Yes To Life profile imageAUTHOR

      Yoleen Lucas 

      6 years ago from Big Island of Hawaii

      Thanks, polynice roldens. No problem bringing religion into it!

      I'm really sorry about your friends with master's degrees! That's why I wrote suggestions #6 and #8 - networking and internship is key! Is there any possibility they can teach at a community college? Even if they have to start off part time, they can always increase their hours later.

      I'm sorry about your struggles also. Perhaps you can visit the financial counselor at your school? Since you haven't graduated yet, you may still qualify for some scholarships and grants. Also, you may be able to do Work Study, where you get an on-campus job (perhaps an internship!) that pays part of your schooling, and leaves you with a little extra for yourself.

      Regarding religion - these are unusual hard times, true, but they've been worse. People have been preaching about the end of the world since the beginning of the world, so I wouldn't hold my breath and expect deliverance there.

      I see you're from Haiti. Check out this link:

      At least you can hop a flight to the US to study. One hundred years ago, that wasn't the case. You would have been stuck there, possibly not even learning to read and write.

      My parents are from Haiti. They came to the US in the 1950s,and managed to survive college. The only way they could get an education was to leave Haiti, and they've lived here ever since. I have never been to Haiti; I'm afraid to go there.

    • paulynice roldens profile image

      Roldens Paulynice 

      6 years ago from Boca Raton, Florida

      great Job my friend. I really like this artilce, specially this section. I am related to it...."The last thing you need is to be worrying about expenses while you’re trying to study; that can bring down your grades, hamper your social life as well. Sure, there are student loans, but do you really want to start your post graduate life with a huge load of debt? " What is so funny my friend is that even if you take students, sometimes the money is not enough. You worried about not having enough money to make it through the week...You are n the dorm , and you can't afford to pay for all your books......College life is not easy m,an...I am attending Florida Atlantic University right now. If I did not receive little help from my parents and relatives, I would drop out man.....And Evemn if I receive those helps, I still struglle in the dorm man....The idea of spending all those time in school....sacrificing yourself to pass your classes..or ..getting out you can't find a job is a waste of time, money, and effort or sacrifices....You work for futile man...That's what it is...I have two friends of me with master degrees....One could not find job after graduation, he went back to his parent house. Till today, he still live with his parent.and can't find is been 2 years since he has his danm degree...In addition to that, the other one did find a job, they pay him 12 dollars per hour with a master degree...This is freaking disrespectfull....But What can we do.....? The only thing that we can do is to blame the goverment.......but even if we blame the government, nothing gonnan change. As stated in the bible, wen the end of the world would come, we will see a lot of thing that we will never use to see before, but they start now a day........It is the end of the world that is coming my friend. The government can't do shit man.....stop blaming them.....It is prophecy that accomplishs,,,,It was said, and it was written in the bible. I am sorry for coming with a religious belief in your article in my comment...


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