Your goal when you enter your first year of college is that the work you did throughout high school has prepared you to be successful (both academically and financially).  It is very common for first year college students to feel a sense of regret about the choices they made throughout high school, as those decisions are now starting to influence their ability to be successful in college.  We asked five college students at the end of their first year what advice they would give to themselves if they could go back and tell themselves one thing while they were in high school.  You might benefit from considering the advice these individuals had to offer.   

Michael – “Get More Engaged”

  • It’s important to focus on more than getting just good grades in school.  You need to take part in a variety of activities that include joining clubs, fund-raising campaigns, or participating in extracurricular activities throughout high school.  While it is nice to have a strong academic background, your success in college is going to depend on your ability to become engaged in the entire college experience.  Most importantly, this will require you to learn how to manage your courser despite being involved in other campus activities that will monopolize your time.  Your first year of college will not be the best opportunity for you to learn the skills needed to manage both of these functions.  

Nicole – “Take More Math and Science Courses”

  • Not having the right high school coursework is going to limit your options, and you are going to find out very quickly that without a wealth of rigorous math and science courses some degree paths will be out of reach.  It’s true that you only need three courses in each of these areas to graduate.  However, college math and science courses often expect a level of understanding in core concepts that can only be achieved in a 4th or 5th year of coursework in these disciplines. A degree in Engineering, Nursing, Pharmacy, and Medicine are all going to be out of reach because your classmates who took four and five years of math and science are more prepared than you are.

Caleb – “Make Informed Choices”

  • Carefully consider a college that fits your fits both your degree goals and your personality because transferring will only delay college graduation and increase your overall educational costs.  Making the decision to go to the University of Nebraska Lincoln because they have a good football team will add a year to college.  Selecting the right college the first time will help ensure that the courses you take will eventually count toward your degree.  Make as many trips to college campuses during high school as you can to get a better feel for how you will fit within the campus community.  While going to a big name school may seem prestigious, you may also find that you just don’t fit in as well as you would like.    

Chloe – “Understand Your Return on Investment”

  • While there is money to be made with a full-time job that requires just a high school diploma (at least at first), it will pale in comparison to what you could be making over time with a college degree.  By waiting four or five years after high school graduation, you will find that your friends are well into their careers by the time you start your first year of college.  Additionally, the fact that you have to seek the degree part-time will reduce your chances of ever getting a degree.  Work hard in school with the assumption that you will start college right after high school graduation.  The investment you make in both time and money will pay for itself in less than five years.   

Austin – “Commit to Saving for College”

  • Putting even just the smallest amount away each month right now will decrease the amount of time you will have to devote to working while going to college.  Sacrifice now by investing into a college fund or 529 IRA that will be able to grow over time.  While you may still need to get a job to help cover expenses, trying to save just 20% of what you earn each month right now could reduce the number of hours you spend working by half.  You will find that the time your savings will be useful in ensuring that you spend more time studying or engaging in other educational opportunities that you would otherwise miss out on. 

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