Like many millennials, I didn’t land a job immediately after finishing school. I found myself unemployed and buried in student loan debt. I was frustrated by how difficult it was to find a job (despite attending a graduate school that boasted a high job placement rate). I quickly realized that most of what I had been told – by my parents, by teachers, by advisors – was inaccurate or incomplete. Advisors are essentially salespeople who try to sell (often useless) degrees. My parents, though well-intentioned, had no idea how much my student loans would add up or how difficult it would be to find a job.
So much of what students are told about college is not accurate. To help others avoid the same mistakes I did, here are seven things I wish someone had told me before I started college.
1. Any degree is not better than no degree. All majors are not created equal. (Translation: Don’t get a liberal arts degree.)
2. For entry level jobs, work experience matters a lot more than your overpriced degree…but that experience will be difficult to get when you have no experience. This catch-22 will frustrate you to no end.
3. Interviewing skills are crucial to landing a decent job. You can be the smartest, most qualified candidate with the most expensive degree, but if you don’t know how to interview, you probably won’t get the job.
4. That $300 brand new textbook you just bought? You’re going to need it for one paragraph in chapter three. Buy all of your textbooks used. Better yet, buy them on eBay and resell them when the semester ends (do not sell them back to the bookstore – they’ll give you $5 for a $200 book). You could also try sharing a textbook with a friend if you know you’re not going to use it that often.
5. Don’t listen to your parents’ financial advice. College was affordable when they went to school, and most of them don’t understand what job searching is like in the current economy.
6. Your student loans will not be worth it. Minimize them as much as possible. Try to get scholarships, work more, live at home, go to community college…do whatever you can to limit the amount you take out in loans.
7. Do NOT use student loans to pay for a dorm or apartment. You will regret it. Yeah, living with your parents during college sucks. You know what sucks even more? Living with your parents when you’re 26, married, and buried in debt.
Want more? Check out 7 Things I Wish I’d Known Before I Started Grad School.