Things Nobody Tells You About College
Four years ago I was months away from my high school graduation. I had chosen a college three hours from my mom's house and one hour from my dad's house. I wanted to get away from home, be independent with all of my friends, and experience the college life.
People warned me about the expenses, but I was barely seventeen at the time. I have always been careful with money, but I didn't have the experience to understand what I was really getting myself into by jumping straight into an expensive university. People also tell you that you will make the best friends of your life in college, that it may even be the best years of your life!
Here are the things I wish people had told me:
I knew what I wanted to major in...
Figure out what you want to major in!
I remember people constantly saying to me, "You have all the time in the world to figure out what you want to be!"
They would say it as if most people actually figure it out during their lifetime. Now I know that a lot of people never have this enlightened moment where they realize that they are meant to do something specific.
I wish people had said, "oh you don't know what you want yet? Well, you honestly had better figure out what to major in within the next year."
In Order to Graduate in 4 Years...
You really should choose a major by the end of your freshman year. If you aren't positive what you want, start out with general education credits so that you don't waste your time on something you don't end up needing!
It is a much easier work load when you know your major right away and can balance out difficult major courses with easier general classes, but it is smarter to get the general classes out of the way if you aren't certain what to major in. Another reason taking general classes to start out is a good idea is that they can give you an idea of what you might want to major in.
I started out majoring in biology just because I felt like I had to choose something. Then I transferred and switched my major to Media Production with a minor in Theatre. Starting out as a biology major for my freshman and part of my sophomore year caused me to graduate in five years rather than four. I spent around $15,000 that I did not need to spend. It would have been even more money wasted if I hadn't decided to do college the cheap way after blowing it on my first year.
Your major most likely doesn't matter!
I was so focused on figuring out what to do with my life, that I didn't realize that I don't need to know exactly what I want to do in order to choose my major.
Now don't get me wrong, if you want to specialize in something specific like law or medicine, you are going to need to major in that. Those kinds of majors are for people who actually know what they want to do with their lives, or at least think they know.
I first realized as a freshman in college that most jobs just require you to have some sort of bachelor degree when I met a woman working closely with the birds in the bird exhibit of a zoo who had a degree in English.
Transferring once from a community college to a university is a wonderful idea!
Transferring from university to university, not so much. If you transfer once or twice, chances are most of your credits will transfer and you will still be able to graduate on time.
Transferring and not knowing your major is another story.
I started at Towson University with Biology, transferred to Wor-Wic Community with Biology but mainly focused on general education luckily, and finally transferred to Salisbury University where I found my major in my junior year. If I hadn't completed all of my general education credits prior to finding my major, I would've been in college for six years instead of five.
It Saves Copious Amounts of $ to Commute
I understand that not everybody is lucky enough to live near a University that offers their major.
If you are as lucky as I am, COMMUTE!
As I said before, I wanted to get out and have the college experience and I blew my college fund in one year. After that, I moved back in with my mom and step-dad and started commuting to the community college and then the university near me.
It is a 40 minute drive, but it is easy to get a schedule where you only go to class two or three days a week so the commute isn't too terrible.
Dorm rooms and meal plans are ridiculously expensive.
At Salisbury University, I save $3,225 per semester for the cheapest room and meal plan, or $6,555 per semester for the most expensive room and meal plan offered.
That means I save between $6,450 and $13,110 each year by commuting!
Plus.. I get my own room!
A lot of people do meet their lifelong best friends in college. A lot of people don't.. especially commuters.
My best friends are still the people that I went to high school with, a few people I met at Towson, people I work with, and my boyfriend who I met through mutual friends and my car breaking down.
As a commuter to Salisbury University, I do not have many friends that go there. Actually, let's be honest... I have zero real friends at my current college, and I do blame it on being a commuter.
I have acquaintances and I have met some awesome people, but when you only see people during class it can be hard to become real friends.
Work, Work, and Work Some More
I know so many people that think college is the time to go out almost every night and have a great time. I go out on occasion... after I get off work.
I have been working and saving money since I was 15 years old. Unless your parents are ridiculously rich, or absolutely broke, they will not be able to cover your college costs and neither will financial aid.
I am one of those unlucky people that FAFSA will not help because my step-dad "makes too much money" and I am "dependent" even though I have been supporting myself since I started working. I paid for over half of college costs by myself. My step-dad was willing to spend $20,000 on my college education and that covered one year at Towson. My dad and step-mom helped me back into reality and helped me pay for some of my time at the local community college so that I would have the money to pay for my last three years at Salisbury University. Once I graduate, I will have spent around $22,000, my step dad will have spent $20,000, and my dad and step-mom will have spent around $5,000. $47,000 total for five years of school is cheap nowadays and I managed that by going to community college and commuting to the university.
I worked my butt off in order to afford each semester and continue to receive straight A's. I never wanted to take out loans, and in a year and a few months, I will graduate without any debt.