A meeting with a student today inspired this blog post. So I was meeting with this student who was wanting to add a 2nd major for her stay at my university. We got to talking and I asked her why did she want to have a 2nd major. She gave a pretty good reason. However, the more I looked and the more we discussed her future it was apparent that she didn’t need our major. In fact, she could graduate this semester if she dropped a couple of courses and took two requirements needed for her major and to finish her overall degree. That is it and she would be done.
When I pointed this out to her she was reluctant to go through with the plan. She wanted to pursue our major. And that is fine. She can do whatever she wants. But I did advise her on two fronts. First, if she wanted to get into the field she wanted what she really needed was an internship, not necessarily another major. Secondly, pursuing that 2nd major would cost her another $30,000 (tuition, fees, and room and board).
We talked a little further and I realized that this student hadn’t been paying attention to how much she owed in student loans. She said it just comes automatically and I just sign it. I don’t know how much I owe. And there isn’t that much difference between $100,000 and $120,000 in student loans. What’s the big deal?
You can imagine the response in my head. I am like are you kidding me? Where are your parents? What are you doing taking out over $100,000 to go to a state school?
She then said that it was just much easier to get the loan, bury her head, and not worry about it until later.
And that ladies in gentlemen is the problem.
To many of my students and others I know don’t pay attention to their student loans while they are in school. Many of my students don’t pay attention to their finances like saving, paying for insurance, etc. They just don’t pay attention. There are too many other things to worry about.
How do I know this is a good chunk of students? Well, I used to be one.
I thought to myself during graduate school that it wasn’t a big deal. I know I had high debts, but it is “good” debt right? Wrong.
To my students: YOU NEED TO PAY ATTENTION TO YOUR FINANCES! YOU NEED TO PAY ATTENTION TO HOW MUCH STUDENT LOAN DEBT YOU ARE TAKING OUT!
Don’t bury your head in the sand. Don’t run. Look at it.
I know it is scary. I know it seems like a huge mountain, but ignoring the problem doesn’t help. I know someone who did that (not me) and it cost her over $150,000 in student loans. Now she calls it “blood money” when she was the one who made the decision to take out the loans.
Tips for My College Students
First, track your finances. You can get a whole host of different services like Mint or Personal Capital. All it takes is for you to get the app and link your bank accounts. At least know where your money is going.
Second, be aware of how much student loan debt you have. I know that some of you will have to take student loan debt. Be aware of how much you are taking and take the least amount possible.
Third, don’t use student loans for living expenses. Don’t be like me. Don’t get student loans for your car payment or for your insurance or food. Get a job. Live at home. Get scholarships, but student loans should be for school expenses.
Fourth, get an internship. A degree doesn’t guarantee you a job anymore. You need an internship (even if it is unpaid). You need experience in the field you want to go in. Here is the dirty little secret that some won’t tell you. The degree will get you into the door. However, it is internships, undergraduate research, leadership activities, study abroad, etc that will get you the interviews and possibly the jobs. Just because you get a major in X field doesn’t mean it will to a job.
Finally, keep your life to a minimum. What I mean by that is you don’t need to get a new car. You don’t need the latest furniture, clothes, etc. You are a POOR college student. Act like one. Learn to live on a shoe string budget. I am not saying be unhealthy. I am telling you to make better choices than your forefathers did (including me).
The Bottom Line: Students you need to pay more attention to your finances! It is too important not too. You have to learn sometime. You might as well do it now.