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How to Get the Most Value from Your College Education Experience

Updated on March 17, 2014
Buy used text books to save money.
Buy used text books to save money. | Source

Tips for Improving Your College Education Experience

  • Develop professional contacts during your college career.
  • Make use of the career guidance resources available at your school.
  • Use your time in college to develop your communication skills.
  • Seek mentoring from instructors and classmates.
  • Approach your education as if it were a job.
  • Use work-study and intern programs as vehicles to gain positive professional references.
  • Seek help if you are struggling. Participate in study groups and find a tutor if necessary.

Education Cost is Rising but Still a Great Value

The cost of getting a college degree is rising quickly. We are living in a struggling economy, and with the high unemployment rates, college enrollment is skyrocketing. More and more people are returning to college to gain new skills or update their current skill set. Top-level managers and high school students are among the many people who are enrolled as students nation-wide. This is happening at a time when federal and state funding for higher education is plummeting!

Despite these tough economic times, a college education is still a great value for the investment. Depending on which degree program you choose, the cost of a college degree can range from several thousand dollars to several hundred thousand dollars.

Vocational degrees and two-year degree programs are typically the least expensive college programs; however, gaining a bachelor’s degree may increase your ability to market your skills and to broaden your range of opportunities for employment after graduation.

Whether you choose a two-year degree program, or make a goal of obtaining your master’s degree or doctorate degree, the value of that college degree is something you will carry with you throughout your life. The college experience will test your ability to commit to your goals. It will teach you to develop and expand your teamwork skills, and to broaden your communication skills. Going to college will expose you to a wide variety of subjects and viewpoints, which will help you to become a more well-rounded person.

Read on for tips on how to get the most value for the dollars you spend on education, and make your college experience more rewarding.

Choose the Right College

Choosing the right college is often a complicated process. A prospective student must first apply for admission. Typically, high school students begin the college application process shortly before graduation or during the first few months after graduation. Many high schools offer programs to give high school students a running start with their college education by allowing them to begin taking college classes and earn credits prior to graduating from high school. These programs are usually designed to work in tandem with local community colleges. This is a great way for students to begin accumulating credits toward a degree that will allow them to transfer to a major university.

When deciding on the college that is right for you, take into consideration the cost of attending, graduation rate for students attending that college, transfer degrees offered by that college, accreditation, and student support networks. Does the college offer the degree program that interests you the most? If you have to relocate to attend this college, what is the housing availability situation on campus and off-campus? What is the cost of living in that area? Make a list of questions and add to that list as you gain more information. If possible, tour the campus to get a feel for how you will fit in.

Online Learning

Getting a degree online is a great tool for busy people, and those who find they are not able to relocate in order to attend college in person.

Many colleges offer both vocational and traditional degree programs that can be completed without ever walking into a classroom. Almost all colleges today offer at least some online courses. Take some time to determine if online learning is right for you.

Online does not always mean self-paced. With online learning, most instructors still require assignments to be submitted by a certain day and time. Are you someone who has the necessary self-discipline to plan your work and work your plan? Do you have the ability to manage your time and stay on task? Being a self-starter is important to success with online learning.

Many online classes require that you take tests in person. This could require traveling periodically if the college you choose is located at a distance. Still, it is worth it to make the commute once a week to gain the skills and credentials needed to advance in your career.

How to Get Money for College

Work with the college’s financial aid counselors. They will help you to fill out financial aid packages, and will provide important information about the FASFA, which is the application for state and federal financial aid.

Ask about special financial aid programs offered by your school or state. You may qualify for additional grant money if you are a dislocated worker or have been a stay-at-home-mom. Many colleges have scholarship foundations for enrolled students. Often you can apply by filling out one centralized scholarship foundation application. Scholarship applications are typically several pages long, with specific formatting and submission guidelines. Find out if the college you attend offers workshops to help with the scholarship application. Visit the college’s financial aid office if possible. Sign up for work-study programs. Ask about paid internships for students.

Search online for scholarships and education grant money. There are thousands of scholarship opportunities available for graduating high school seniors, family members of veterans, and children of parents who are employed by specific organizations. Sifting through all of the available information takes time, but can pay big dividends.

Apply for student loans. A student loan is money you pay back. There is a variety of loan programs available. The interest rates are low and in many cases, payment is deferred until after you finish your college education.

Tuition reimbursement programs offered by employers are a great way to save money on education. Check with the human resources department where you work to find out if your company has a program like this. If you are thinking of changing jobs, you might want to find out if your potential new employer offers tuition reimbursement for continuing education in a field of study related to your work.

Text Books

College textbooks can be very expensive, but students have to have them. It does not matter if you are enrolled in a vocational education program, or working toward a master’s degree. Textbooks are a necessary part of getting your college degree. You can buy textbooks at your college’s bookstore. Used books are a great value when it comes to making your purchase. However, you may find that the college bookstore’s supply of used textbooks sells out very quickly.

Many people make use of Amazon.com when buying textbooks for college. Quality used and new textbooks in good condition can be purchased online, often for less money than the price of those same books offered in the college bookstore. This is a great way for college students to save money on their books!

Study Tips

Show up! This is the best advice for how to get good grades in college. Attend class. Get to know your instructors. Complete your assignments on time. Do not be afraid to ask questions. In order to make the most of your college experience, participation is necessary.

Do the reading. Many students try to rush through this part of the process and end up regretting it. It takes time to read the texts and handouts, but it is a necessary part of the process.

Read three times. The first time you read the text, read for general comprehension. Then go back and read a second time, highlighting key points in the text. Read the chapter or unit objectives presented by the author or the instructor. Go back and read through the material one more time to make sure you understand the information about the stated objectives.

Learn the terminology! If you understand the terms, you will find it easier to complete the assignments.

Get to know your classmates. Now, more than ever before, colleges and employers are putting emphasis on the teamwork process. Working with other students is a great way to improve your teamwork and team building skills. As you become acquainted with the students enrolled in the same classes and degree program, you will find that you benefit by sharing handy hints and helpful tips, participation in study groups, and developing a feeling of belonging to a community.

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  • cleaner3 profile image

    cleaner3 3 years ago from Pueblo, Colorado

    I am currently in college and about to graduate with my associates of arts degree.. following I will transfer to a 4 year college to obtain my bachelors degree in englis or humanities since I am a writer and it leaves me many options .. this is a great hub ..Nancy .. thanks for the follow.!

    Michael

  • Nancy Owens profile image
    Author

    Nancy Owens 3 years ago from USA

    Hi justmesuzanne! Sign language is such a beautiful way to communicate. I have been fortunate enough during my life to have had a couple friends who were hearing impaired. Both were able to attend college, and taught me some signing. It has been many years since I have seen these people, but I have many fond memories of conversing with sign.

    You are right that people need to be careful when choosing an online college.

  • justmesuzanne profile image

    justmesuzanne 3 years ago from Texas

    Excellent, practical advice. I also think it is very important to only seek online degrees from established colleges and universities. There have been so many online establishments pop up over the past decade, and I don't think many of them are too prestigious, but today you can take classes at Stanford, Harvard and so on via the internet. Also, showing up (or watching all the lectures online and paying close attention) is very important. I was once the American Sign Language interpreter for a course in Environmental Science at a local university. When it came time for the midterm, the instructor handed me a copy of the test and asked me to take it. I aced it without ever cracking a book because I attended every lecture and listened to every word the professor said!

    Voted up, useful and shared! :)

  • Millionaire Tips profile image

    Shasta Matova 5 years ago from USA

    I have heard that Harvard does offer a free ride scholarship to disadvantaged youths who make high marks in school. The more prestigious universities receive more donations from their students, so it makes sense that they can pass more of that along in the form of scholarships.

  • Nancy Owens profile image
    Author

    Nancy Owens 5 years ago from USA

    Thank you for adding that useful information, Millionaire Tips. Excluding a college from a list of potential educational institutions because of the cost of attending could block someone from achieving the educational goals they are seeking. If someone wants to go to Harvard or Columbia, I say they should go for it. With financing a dream, the old saying, "where there is a will there is a way," comes to mind. You make some very good points.

  • Millionaire Tips profile image

    Shasta Matova 5 years ago from USA

    This is a lot of good information about selecting, being accepted into, and finding success in college. I have found that it is best to look at colleges in your junior year in high school, and start applying early in your senior year. That way, you have time to start applying for financial aid in January. Also do not apply only to inexpensive schools. We found that the expensive schools were the same price as the inexpensive schools when we factored in the financial aid.

  • Nancy Owens profile image
    Author

    Nancy Owens 5 years ago from USA

    You made a great point about keeping track of information! Collecting up research does little good if you can't find it when you need it! :) Thank you for taking the time to read.

  • keithlipke profile image

    keithlipke 5 years ago from Fort Wayne, Indiana

    This is a great article chock full of info. The biggest thing to be diligent on is keeping everything! If you do research keep your notes so you can make the best choice. It might seem daunting to do but it's a one time shot and is not that hard to do. The more research you have the best decision you can make.

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