On every corner of the internet, in every guidance office, and at every family get-together, you’ll hear endless streams of college advice regarding what school to attend, which degree to pursue, and how to graduate debt-free.
While there is nothing wrong with college advice for future students, it’s important to remember that pursuing higher education is a complex decision. Simple advice sound bites can’t take into account all of the factors impacting such a big decision.
There is no one right way to get your college education, so it’s okay if you decide to ignore advice from both well-meaning family members and the articles they keep forwarding to you.
Here are four of the most common pieces of college advice that you can comfortably ignore as you pursue your degree:
1. Major in Something Lucrative
Every year brings new college advice articles about post-graduate salaries for specific degrees. The higher the salary, the better return on investment from your education.
While it makes sense to consider the expense of a college degree carefully, it could be a recipe for disaster if you choose your college major based solely on post-graduation salary. What if you pick a major that leads to an unsatisfying career path? Life’s too short to work in a field you don’t like.
Even if you do major in a field that pays well, recessions, changes in regulations, or new technology could weaken your job prospects.
Imagine if everyone followed a life plan based on money: writers, teachers, social workers, philosophers, actors, and musicians would all disappear. You should consider job prospects when picking a major, but it shouldn’t overwhelm your decision-making process. Remember, the skills you learn in college—writing, research, and critical thinking—will help you in your post-college career.
Remember, the skills you learn in college—writing, research, and critical thinking—will help you in your post-college career.
2. Attend Community College for Two Years, Then Transfer to Your Preferred School
One common piece of advice is for students to start their education at a local community college. They can take all of their prerequisite courses for a fraction of the cost, and then transfer to a university. You’ll save money on required introductory courses, and potentially even live at home.
This advice doesn’t take into account the challenge you may face when you transition from community college to university. According to data from the National Center for Education Statistics, students who start at a community college are less likely to graduate within six years than those who start at a four-year institution.
Students starting at a community college take longer to graduate than those who go straight to a four-year university. Students who began their studies at a community college took 71 months to complete a bachelor’s degree, while those at public universities took 55 months, and students at private four-year colleges took 50 months.
That’s not to say community colleges don’t offer an excellent education, but students who are hoping to save money should recognize that starting at a community college is not always going to be the cheapest option.
3. Take a Job While You Study to Help Pay for School
Many college students are advised to work through college to help defray education costs. This allegedly gives you the incentive to do well in school so you don’t waste the hard-earned money you’ve spent on tuition, but it will also help you learn valuable time management and workplace skills.
The problem is the jobs flexible enough to accommodate a college student’s schedule aren’t usually lucrative without working long hours. Studies have shown working more than ten to fifteen hours can have a detrimental effect on your grades. According to the
According to the American Association of University Professors, retention rates are higher for students who work 10 to 15 hours a week than for students who either do not have a job or work over 15 hours a week. Research also found students were more academically successful if they worked on campus.
If you can find a way to pay for college that will allow you to focus on studying rather than trying to juggle a job and being a full-time student, then you will be more likely to graduate on time.
4. Avoid Taking on Student Debt
Stories of college students graduating with six-figure student loans and no job prospects are enough to discourage anyone from taking on student loan debt. Amercian students now owe nearly $1.3 trillion, and student debt is currently the second biggest source of personal debt after mortgages; it’s understandable some college advice suggests students should avoid student loans.
However, deciding all student debt is bad could be detrimental to your education. Paying for college without a student loan could mean delaying or prolonging your education; taking on a student loan means you’re more likely to finish college.
In addition, federal student loans come with repayment benefits like forbearance, adjusted repayment plans, and loan forgiveness. These sorts of benefits can make student loan payments much more manageable.
Not All College Advice Is Created Equal
Advice for college students can be helpful, but much of it can be misguided or not applicable to your situation. Take everything with a grain of salt and do what’s best for you and your situation.
Still not sure what to do? Take a look at this student debt advice from some of your favorite celebrities.
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