4 Things I Wish I Knew Before Going to College
I always knew I was going to go to college. However, what never occurred to me were other important factors like: how was I was going to pay for college, would I stay in state or attend college out-of-state, or what I would even major in?
My brother and I are first generation college students, so we received little to zero guidance on what the process looked like. At the time, I was naive to much of what awaited me. As my high school graduation approached, a couple of things became clearer. I knew where I was going to college and my grades were decent enough to get a few scholarships. The scholarships would bring down the cost of my first year of college. That was it. The rest of the equation was a mystery to me.
Now, as I enter my final year of undergraduate studies, and reflect on my journey, I find there are four things I wish I knew before going to college. I hope these reflections benefit everyone, especially those high school students who share a similar situation to mine and may not have someone to guide them through the college application, selection and payment process.
(1) Scholarships Are Not Just for Athletes and Super Geniuses
You don’t have to be the next LeBron James or Steve Jobs to get scholarships to cover the steep costs of college tuition. However, that doesn’t mean things will be easy. You still need to work hard to prove your worth. You need to maintain good grades and more. You need to challenge yourself through sports, music, arts, community volunteer programs to demonstrate you have what it takes to run with the top students around the globe – not just the country, the globe.
Applying for DOZENS of scholarships locally and nationally is one key to chopping and reducing the large tuition bill that is coming.
One thing I learned about scholarships after getting into college – you can keep applying for additional ones. So, don’t stop applying once you have entered college. Additional scholarship money covers more tuition. That is what I did and I was able to graduate with no student debt. Zero!
In summary, look diligently and apply for scholarships before you enter college and while you are in college. You will be doing yourself a big favor. You want to graduate from college with as few loans and as little debt as possible.
(2) You Can Fail at Anything and No One Will Care
No one likes to fail. It feels embarrassing. It flat out hurts. But, failing is necessary to growing. So, plan and prepare to succeed. But, don’t be afraid to fail. Many people, probably the right people, will not care if you fail, as long as you give your best effort.
Why? One possible reason, failing frequently means you challenged yourself to do something you weren’t already good at. It shows you are willing to grow and it also shows you have something new to master. To master a new craft or skill requires hard work and effort. People respect other people who want to grow, work hard and give maximum effort.
If no one has told you, college classes are hard. Something that is even more difficult is juggling everything else that comes with college, like outside classwork, new friendships, new social situations, work, etc. You may come to a point where you are not sure if you can handle everything that is required at once. Try not to overly stress or get paralyzed. Some can. Some can’t. Everyone’s situation and abilities are different. If you are like me and everything in high school seemed easy – playing sports, going to an after-school job, and getting good grades – college classes may lead you to the realization, you are not superman or superwoman.
What many people really care about is not whether you fail, but what you do after you fail. So, keep going. Give your best. College may be one of the best places to fail, if not the best. Use your time here to challenge yourself and take calculated risks.
(3) Majors Are Like Socks, Everyone Changes Them
It’s said that about 80 percent of students change their major in college. Sometimes you enter college as a Biology major and you exit as an Operations Management major. Going into college I thought you could only pick one major. I further believed that major would become your career path and be with you the rest of your life. I could not have been more wrong.
After a year in college, I learned almost everyone changes their major at least once. In my case, I started as a Finance major, changed it three times and ended right back where I started.
One of your jobs in college is to find yourself. You are there to discover who you are, what you can become, what you are good at, what you are interested in, what makes you happy and what will make you a living. Sometimes that changes drastically. It is not right or wrong. You are changing. You are growing. You are no longer who you were last year or last week. Do not be afraid of change, instead embrace who you are becoming.
Remember, you are not bound to one major or career path for the rest of your life. If you need or want to change your major, you can.
(4) Make New Friends, Don’t Let New Friends Make You
More than likely, whatever college you choose to go to, the student population will be much higher than your high school. This will significantly increase your opportunities to make a group of friends who think differently than you. Not all of those friends will have the same class schedule, study schedule or available social time as you. Two challenges you will face are: (1) to maintain the right balance between your academic and social life; and, (2) to decide which relationships are important to you to cultivate and grow.
Looking back, I came to the realization not everyone will find it easy to dedicate a few hours a week to studying. Be aware, if this is you or one of your friends, this attitude or behavior can be infectious, for good or bad.
So, choose your friends and priorities wisely.
I hope this message adds light to your college career and adventure. I have found college is a great place to learn and discover new things I may not have otherwise had opportunity to explore. It is a safe to place to fail and find success. It is a place to grow that provides plenty of time to comeback from setbacks. With that said, expect to learn a lot about who you are, who you want to become and how you want the world to see you. Best of luck. I can’t wait to see the new and bright ideas you bring to the world.
About Cameron Rufus
Cameron is going into his senior year at Bowling Green State University where he is majoring in Finance, Insurance and Risk Management. He was the President, and previously Treasurer, of the university’s Financial Management Society and a member of its Financial Investing Club. Cameron’s mission is to positively impact the lives of all the people he meets, whether that’s through a service or friendship. He is a big advocate for teaching the youth financial literacy and education.
See more of Cameron’s thinking. He’s one of the young leaders featured in Panel 2 of Sammy Rabbit’s Teen, College and Young Adult Financial Literacy Discussion Panel!
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