It seems like a century ago.
I still look back and think of what my life was like in college. No, I don’t get nostalgic and ponder the “glory days”, wearing my lanyard while polishing off a couple of Keystone Lights.
I reflect to see where I was and how I got here so I can apply those lessons to my life today. Yeah – I’m responsible like that.
When I was heading down to North Carolina to begin my freshman year all I could think about was the parties. If that’s wrong then I don’t want to be right.
If we’re being honest with ourselves, how many kids are thinking about lecture halls and professors at that point?
I thought I had it all figured out. I planned to enjoy the first couple years and then ramp things up and land a sweet job. I had money (which wasn’t mine), a high school diploma, and no clue what I was going to do with my life. But I was ready for action (hint: sarcasm).
Here are the 10 things I wish I knew before college.
1. The Future is Now
Youth breeds optimism. One second you have your whole life in front of you and then suddenly you’ve got two kids, a sore back and a no idea what happened to pursuing your dreams.
Don’t postpone taking action, because tomorrow never comes. All we have is the moment and college is the perfect launching pad for your next achievement.
If you want to start your own business, do it today. Interested in someone but not sure how they feel? Make a move.
If something is important enough to you, you’ll make time for it during the day. All the other things are merely mirages until you make them a priority.
2. You Don’t Have It All Figured Out
Unless you’ve traveled overseas and/or lived in 3 different areas of the country before college, your understanding of the world is limited.
You need to interact with people who aren’t like you before you can truly start to find yourself and discover your niche in the world.
In college, I didn’t know the principles of financial independence – I was flying by the seat of my pants. Instead of seeking guidance and mentorship, I made the mistake of thinking I was smarter than I really was.
You don’t know what you don’t know! Seek other perspectives and opinions – you’ll thank yourself later.
3. Experiences Are Greater Than Grades
Don’t get me wrong – grades matter. You’ll need those bad boys to help get you in the door for interviews. However, after you land those interviews, your experiences will carry you the rest of the way.
It’s absolutely vital to align yourself with the career you want to pursue. Want a tip? Here are three words of advice: get an internship.
If you don’t want to do that, volunteer. Join a club. I don’t care what it is; just do something that will help bolster that stellar GPA.
4. Every Relationship Matters
Don’t burn bridges.
College is an incredible opportunity to meet people you’d never normally interact with. Don’t act like you’re better than anybody else – you’re not.
In the business world, relationships are your currency. You never know who can teach you something new or help you out in a time of need. This is one of the most important things I wish I knew before college.
5. There Are No Shortcuts to Wealth
Making money is simple – it’s building wealth that’s complicated.
With so many distractions, it’s especially difficult to start building wealth in your 20s.
Don’t fall for get-rich-quick schemes. To make your money multiply, you need to build a diverse skill set and knowledge base.
Make the effort to truly learn your course material and while you’re at it, go ahead and do some learning outside the classroom too. You’ll thank yourself later.
6. Your Peers Are Your Competition
College is fun, so it’s easy to forget that you and your fellow students are competing for the same jobs.
Work with your peers and learn from your peers, but don’t fall victim to free-loaders who constantly benefit from your hard work. This is especially important when preparing for interviews!
7. Your Parents Want to Hear From You
I was the worst when it came to keeping in touch with my parents. I went 4 weeks without giving them a call sometimes!
Don’t be like me.
There’s a very good chance that your parents want to hear from you more than once a month. Believe it or not, they have a lot of life experience and can offer some good advice from time to time.
There’s a pretty good chance they’ve gone through whatever obstacles you’re facing.
8. Loans Aren’t for Vacations
Don’t confuse getting your loan disbursement with a pay day!
It feels good to have money in the bank, but that doesn’t mean you should treat it like money you’ve earned.
This may come as a surprise to you, but you have to pay back your loans with interest. So, it’s probably a wise move to spend it on things that will further your education and career prospects.
Want to go on spring break courtesy of your loans? Be my guest – I’ve made that mistake! Just keep in mind that the $900 you’re spending will have interest tacked on top of it when you go to pay it back.
9. Your Resume Won’t Build Itself
I didn’t start seriously building my resume until I was a junior. Let’s just say that wasn’t the best strategy.
You’ll need a solid one page resume by the time you begin looking for work. Going to class and getting good grades will only fill up a very small portion of that page. What else can you do in your spare time to build your resume and your professional brand?
10. Lessons are Everywhere
The passing of time puts things into perspective and gives them importance in our lives.
Being an active participant in your college education will allow you to reap rewards for the rest of your life. Reflect on the good things and reflect on the bad. If you look hard enough, you’ll gleam important lessons almost every day.
These are the 10 things I wish I knew before college. Do you have a similar list? If you’re a college graduate, don’t forget to check out my ten tips for career success.
Check out these other FREE Home at 30 tools:
All opinions expressed on this blog are solely those of Home at 30 and are in no way affiliated with any other organization or institution. The purpose of this blog is to give general education and information about investing, wealth, careers, and college; It is not intended to be professional advice.
After earning an undergraduate degree in Economics and a Master of Arts in Management at Wake Forest University, Josh has paid off over $90k in student loan debt in 3.5 years. By founding Home at 30, Josh wants to help you make the most of college, build a successful career, and achieve financial independence.