Only go to college with a career range in mind.
Treat the entire college experience as a financial investment, since you’ll have to pay it back someday.
Hunt for schools with the price tag in mind more than the pedigree.
When you’re done with college, move on into your career, since it’s an expensive lifestyle decision to stick around.
Why go to college?
College is specialized training:
- College is expanding on the primary and secondary education you’ve already received, formally or informally.
- While college experiences are unique, they’re typically reproducible elsewhere for far less money, especially through the military or the trades.
- While a fraternity/sorority is a powerful network, there are many equally powerful networks elsewhere for nearly any mainstream industry and interest.
Your college experience must support your career plan:
Don’t “follow your dreams”:
- Our dreams change constantly, especially before we reach our 30’s.
- Most people want an easy life, which is guaranteed failure.
- Instead of acquiring debt to follow a dream, work a job and follow your curiosity until you’re fully aware of your desires.
- Instead of setting a fixed future goal, pursue the most promising and most likely future possibilities.
Before choosing a particular college, understand beforehand what you want:
- You should know your career goals before talking with a recruiter.
- A recruiter is a salesperson who wants you to go to college, even if it’s not in your best interests.
- Don’t contact or respond to a college until you have a program in mind.
- If you don’t know what you want, it’s better to learn by trial-and-error in the workforce (and making money) than paying for a degree that’s potentially useless in the future.
Find what you want to do by looking for people as smart as you:
- Learn brutal honesty with yourself and your mental limits.
- Your natural talents are always useful, but you probably don’t know how and where yet.
- The hardest possible job you can do will likely pay the most.
- Make sure the job matches your personality.
- If the job is too intense, it’ll burn you out.
- If the job is too easy, you’ll be bored.
Only pursue a program in something you’re already familiar with:
- Disregard any pop culture you’ve consumed about that job (including “reality TV”), since it usually dramatizes the exciting parts of the job and incorrectly captures its daily routine.
- You’ve had a family member or close friend describe their daily life in the job.
- You’ve volunteered or worked in it.
- If you don’t have that experience, volunteer somewhere.
- If you can’t find somewhere to volunteer, then that job is not in demand.
- If it were, they’d never turn down free volunteer labor.
Degrees don’t mean as much as what they represent:
- A degree is a piece of paper that says that teachers observed that you spent time in classes, turned in the work, and got at least “B” averages on all the tests.
- Desiring to learn and working hard on good things guarantees success, which is what a degree should imply.
- However, college degrees are so commonplace in many specialties that it doesn’t distinguish the student as successful.
- Plus, which school issues the degree hasn’t contributed much to students’ success for decades!
- Hiring managers don’t look at grades anymore as much as extracurricular activities and attitude.
Many high-paying jobs don’t even need college:
- College is necessary to move into some management jobs, but most positions require work experience more than a degree, and you can usually take night school later on after you’re more financially stable.
- Most trades only require some knowledge and maybe a trade school certificate to start an entry-level job.
- You can make a ton of money without college if you can withstand getting dirty, smelling awful, being in a dangerous environment, or being alone for long periods of time.
Education is often free in an internet-empowered society, but college isn’t:
- Work in a low-wage industry (e.g., restaurants, courier) often teaches productive habits, people skills, and the virtues of patience and perseverance that help support better-paying jobs later.
- With the internet and a desire to learn, you have a near-limitless source of free videos, courses, articles, databases, research papers, and tools to sharpen your skills and understanding.
- A college’s pedigree and prestige are nowhere near as important to employers as work ethic and attitude.
Your higher education is an investment
Calculate your expected financial return:
- Estimate the median income for your most likely future role.
- e.g., $60,000 a year
- Multiply it by the number of years you’ll withstand that role until you want to jump to a new career later (about ten, if you can’t guess).
- e.g., $60,000 a year x 10 years = $600,000
- Contrast the extra time on top of college to get acquainted with the role and make a legitimate living at it.
- e.g., 4 years of college plus a year’s internship = 5 years
- e.g., 1 year of skill-building plus 3 years of marketing yourself = 4 years
- Divide the new total of years by the income calculated in #2.
- e.g., $600,000 / 15 years = $40,000 per year
- Compare it to an alternate job that you have now or could have soon.
- e.g., $40,000/year vs. $25,000/year at a low-wage job = $15,000/year improvement
- Calculate the financial ceiling for your college experience.
- e.g., 15,000 college-improved pay x 10 years = 150,000
Even while you go to college, keep your job on the side:
- Stay working whenever you can to earn a living and avoid huge student loan debts.
- Try to find low-paying apprenticeships or part-time industry work instead of merely volunteering.
Hunting for schools
Find the tuition costs of each school:
- Estimate textbooks and fees into the total cost.
- The previous editions of textbooks are often nearly identical (e.g., the 6th or 7th edition instead of the 8th).
- Include the costs for living and any work you’re sacrificing to attend classes.
- Calculate whether on-campus or off-campus costs less.
- Deeply consider online courses, since they’re almost always cheaper.
- Check whether they have an accelerated program to cut down on how long you’re going.
- Note the terms and conditions of all school-based awards.
- Many financial aid programs only apply to first-year students, so consider the total yearly cost after freshman year.
Try to save money as much as possible:
- Before going to university, take community college courses and online-accredited courses for every possible course required for your degree.
- Consider self-study colleges (such as WGU) and study as much as possible before enrolling to quickly get the credential.
- You can often negotiate a lower price or more features for your schooling experience if you simply ask.
- Consider in-state tuition, which is usually cheaper than out-of-state.
- Ask about campus work study programs.
Get as many scholarships and grants as possible:
- Watch closely for demography-based scholarships:
- Race (especially non-white)
- Gender/sexual orientation (especially non-heterosexual)
- Age (especially being older)
- Odd, demographic-specific, industry-specific scholarships (.e.g., full-ride scholarship for a Filipino aspiring to be an architect)
- Look for government-issued grants.
- Take the SAT/ACT to open more scholarship opportunities.
- Before the tests, study and get tutoring to score higher.
- Some scholarships require you to volunteer or write an essay, which is about 20 hours of mild research or menial labor for thousands of dollars.
Carefully consider any loans you may need:
- Student loans are debts.
- The only collateral they leverage against is your future ability to work.
- The only type of bankruptcy that can clear student loan debt is uncompromisingly severe.
- Expand your options to explore working a trade as a means to your degree.
- Federal loans are almost always cheaper, with fixed interest rates and better repayment terms.
- Estimate the amortized interest you’ll end up paying by the time you’ve completely paid off the loan.
Finishing your education
- For most people going to college, it’s their first move away from home.
- Find affordable, meaningful ways to enjoy your life while you pursue your curiosity.
- Most federal loans will let you go wild with borrowing, so live as little off them as possible to avoid suffering under them for decades.
- You’ll need your work habits later, so keep working and building habits.
Leaving college should always be the beginning of your education in a more practical field, not the end of it.
At some point, you must leave college:
- If you’ve can’t find work after getting a degree, a higher degree won’t help.
- In fact, completing a college degree often creates a “glass floor” against entry-level work:
- Outside of a graduate degree in Law, Medicine, or Education, most Master’s programs add very little value to a career.
- Most doctorate programs are only useful to teach the discipline or work in a tiny subset of the industry (e.g., Philosophy, Art, Economics, History).
- After graduating, don’t try to maintain the college lifestyle.
- Some people will keep getting college degrees across multiple unrelated disciplines, but they are forever enslaved to their student loans.
- Educators are capturing known-effective things, so they tend to stifle innovation, and your capacity to create and innovate will only come from outside a college.