Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Advice No One Tells You about Paying for College

Any of you going to college this year wondering how to pay for it?  Allow me to lay it all down for you. 

If you go pro athlete or pro entrepreneur while or before stepping in college, congratulations, none of this will apply to you.  Everyone else, read on. 

Once you start, you need to finish your degree program on time or sooner.  Any delay in your degree program makes it more expensive in the long run.  Let me explain. 

Going to school part-time may be an option, but it does come with financial risk.
The reality is that tuition increases rise faster in an 8 year span than average wages in 8 years for someone with no college degree working full-time and attending school part-time.  

You may leave school with "no debt" but you risk losing 4 years of increases in salary for someone with a college degree.  

Depending on where you go to school, taking out modest student loans and finishing on time or sooner is less expensive in the long run than going to school part-time.  In addition, going to school full-time makes you eligible for scholarships that you need to research and apply for.  

Education at any cost is very bad financial advice.  
Even if you got accepted to the best ranked program, if you cannot afford to go, think very long and hard about the student loans you anticipate taking out

The rule of thumb for student loans is this:

The total amount of your loans after graduating should not exceed 
what you could be making in your 1st year of pay in your selected profession.  

If paying back your student loans is going to be an issue, on top of where you want to live and work after graduation...you need to search for alternatives that will allow you to finish school on time and begin building your personal masses of wealth.  

Go to an affordable program 
One that does not require you to take massive amounts of loans.  No one cares if you went to community college and then transferred.  And another thing...

You will be fine or come out better off financially not going to a ranked/elite program
Once in a job, how well you do and how much you progress really depends on how your competencies fit the Key Responsibility Areas of your job description, and hardly on where you went to school.  

It is not so much about going to the right school as it is picking the right major.   It is important to figure out a major early and not change it 2, 3 or 7 times, delaying your completion date.  Some majors are better than others in terms of entry-level employability and facilitating paying off your loans.   Decide on a major, finish your major on time, and move on with your life.

Apply for all the scholarships you are qualified for.  90% of them require you to submit a transcript, maybe proof of financial aid, and just answer the question.  
All it takes is research what scholarships are available, see if you meet the minimum qualifications, submit a copy of your transcript and just answer the question on the scholarship application.  It is usually just a paragraph.  

Some scholarships require near perfect GPAs but I discovered that several do not, particularly the ones that require proof of financial aid (at least a 3.0) and there were more of that going around than honors scholarships.  

Applying to scholarships is similar to applying for jobs.  You are not qualified for everything out there but you need to set time aside to search and apply for jobs.  If you see a job you are qualified for, apply for it!  And just like jobs...

You may not be selected for your scholarship, but you still keep your edge on and applying.
Just like in the real world, this will happen to all of us at some point in our careers, where we are 1 of 2 finalists for a position but don’t get the job.  It is important to not get discouraged and lose our edge when we are not selected.  I’ve seen too many people who have gotten discouraged, lost their drive and pretty soon, they go from being the next to candidate #3, then #7 to not being interviewed at all. 

When one door closes, another will open.  

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