HomeCollegeDo's and Dont's of college

Do’s and Dont’s of college

Being that I am a semi recent college graduate (class of ’07), I figured I would throw in my two cents on the college experience, particularly in reference to one’s financial situation. I would say I had decent financial habits in college, but I was by no means perfect. Here are some “Do’s and Dont’s” to you get you through those four years unscathed…

Do look in to going to a public school. I made the decision to go private and man oh man did I pay for that choice. My school ran about $30k/yr, quite a bit different than the $5K-10k/yr public school options. Looking back I wish I would have considered going to the University of Washington. Heck, it’s probably a more prestigious school, and definitely better known, than my Alma mater. It’s okay though, I don’t regret my choice as I had the best four years of my life, but I SHOULD have explored public options more carefully.

Don’t drop out. Yeah that’s right. If you start college…finish. I can’t tell you how many kids I went to school with that didn’t come back after the first year. They paid $30K for that one year, and don’t have a degree to show for it. School can be hard, life happens, and money will be an issue, but you better do everything in your power to make sure you graduate from somewhere, even if it’s PDU (Punch Debt University).

Do work part time. I don’t care if you are working 5hrs/wk or 40hrs/wk, but try and make some money. I know, being a full time student can be stressful, but I bet part of that stress comes from being broke. You don’t need to be earning enough to contribute to a Roth IRA (although that would definitely be sexy), I just want you to be able to cover the majority of your personal expenses (food, clothes, school stuff, etc). It also will give you something to put on your resume come graduation time. Think about it, if you were on a hiring panel would you hire someone who graduated college with a 3.5 GPA and no work experience or someone with a 3.5 GPA who also had a job during those four years? I’m going with the latter.

Don’t use that fricken credit card you signed up for. Yeah, that’s right. I’ve been watching you. Some dude at a booth said “Hey fill out an application for this credit card and we will give you this frisbee” and you filled it out didn’t you…DIDN’T YOU!? I too took advantage of a “free shirt” offer, but I actually lied on the application and input all fake info (which I think is actually a crime, but I didn’t know it at the time). Fortunately, I never accumulated a credit card balance while in school and you need to do the same. This is a non-negotiable. Credit cards can not be the means by which you provide yourself food and textbooks.

Do get good grades. Sounds like a no brainer right? But are you really applying yourself in all of your classes. I sure didn’t. In fact I got an A in Organic Chemistry, but a B in Art 101. I picked and chose which classes I wanted to succeed in and where I was okay falling short. I wish I could go back in time and try just a little bit harder. When you graduate your GPA is going to be a huge bartering tool for you. Yes, your college GPA will become less important as you establish yourself in the work place, but until that time comes, it is your most valuable asset. If you graduated with honors don’t be shy about telling your prospective employers about it during an interview. It shows that you are dedicated to working hard and doing well.

Don’t grow up too fast. If you are the typical 20-something college student you have a responsibility requirement to act like it. Have fun. Pull stupid pranks on your dorm mates. Stay up really late and watch movies. Once you graduate college, you have to enter the 9-5 world, and let me tell you… it ain’t pretty. Midnight burrito runs are a thing of the past. Enjoy the college lifestyle.

Do take advantage of EVERYTHING your school has to offer. I was heavily involved in various college activities. Sporting events, clubs, organizations, all at your fingertip. There are so many FREE programs available to college students, you would have to be stupid to not take advantage of them. You aren’t stupid, are you?

So there ya have it, some of my thoughts on the college experience. Take them with a grain of salt as they are only my opinions, and last time I checked, my opinion meant nothing.

I’d love to get some more input on today’s post (especially if you are still in college)

1) For those in school, what year are you and where do you go?

2) For those that have graduated, any other Do’s or Dont’s you would add to the list?

3) Any other advice, support, or comments you would like to mention?



  1. I'll go even further and say go to community college for your first 2 years. No one will care, promise…well except your bank account, it will thank you. Plus when you transfer to a 4 year college, you'll start out as a junior with a 4.0! That would have done me well because I did far better my last two years than my first. Unfortunately, it's hard to recover your GPA when you have 80 credit hours under your belt.

    Also, take advantage of free tutoring if your school offers it and study in groups. That always helped me.

  2. All great Do's and Dont's! I graduated 16 years ago and my "DO" is to definitely move into the dorms and don't live at home! Seriously, I think living away from home is an integral part of the whole university experience. I know many people who lived at home and commuted to school…they didn't get the whole experience and regretted it.

    • I second that! I moved into the dorms in 1999 and stayed for my Frosh/Soph years. I am still best friends with my roommate and would not trade the experience for anything.

  3. A couple more dos:

    -Do go to a school close to where you'd eventually like to work. Many companies recruit from regional universities. So don't go to a school in the midwest if you want to end up somewhere not surrounded by corn when you graduate. If you think living in california is your dream, then go to school there.

    -Do go to a school with great name recognition. I went to a very highly ranked engineering school but it's hardly known outside a 200 mile radius of where it's located. In hindsight I would have been better off going to a school with a great football team than a great engineering program.

    -Do go to a big school. I went to a very small school. I realize now that many people recruit from their alma mater. Your odds of networking with an alum are much greater if you went to a big state school vs a small private university.

    Lastly, I second the living on campus comment with one change. It really only matters your freshman year. After that you've already got your friends + network established and many people choose to live off campus anyway.

  4. As a former college teacher, I'll add these:

    – Do your own work. Not all professors can spot all instances of academic dishonesty, but if you're caught you could easily fail a course or be thrown out of school.

    – Don't overextend yourself. With 15 credits, a part-time job, and one major extra-curricular activity you're already very busy.

    – Don't complain to your teachers about the workload. You wouldn't complain to your boss, so act like a professional and just do it.

    – Do read the syllabus and make sure you understand the course requirements. If attendance is required, show up. If work has to be turned in on time, don't be late.

    – Do get to know any professors from whom you want a recommendation. If we don't know you, what can we say about you?

  5. Well, I went to a school in the midwest that not a lot of people know, though I've found that educators are very familiar with it. I think a lot depends on your circumstances. The private school I went to is significantly more expensive than the public school by my home (Berkeley, FWIW), but I was eligible for scholarships at my school that I didn't receive at Berkeley. My cost of attendance ended up being roughly similar in the end, including transportation costs. And because my school had no GE requirements (not in the traditional sense) I finished 2 majors in 2.5 years.

    And don't even look at grad school. The cost of attendance in state for Boalt Hall (Berkeley's law school) and where I attended is the same!! I almost lost my mind when I saw that. All that's to say that in-state isn't necessarily cheaper anymore, depending on what state you're in.

  6. Network, network, network! There is no worse feeling than graduating college with no job prospects in sight–which is an even greater possibilty for recent graduates in this economic climate. Your chances of landing a job are much greater if you have a "foot in the door" through professional contacts. Therefore, do any and all internships that you are offered (paid and unpaid); attend all networking events and professional speaking engagements, etc.

  7. One of the best things you can do for your grade is read. Read the test questions and instructions carefully before answering. Read paper guidelines before putting in all that effort.

    One of the things I hear Micah yelling most often when he's grading is "No, you didn't even read the question!!!" It frustrates him because he wants the students to get good grades, but if they just skim the question & answer what they THINK it's saying…well it's a sure way to screw up your test scores.

  8. Although I have a personal aversion to your school of choice (living 10 miles from the purple and gold doesn't help either), you bring up some excellent dos and don'ts. I would just like to add
    Do-look for free money even after you have started your program. I was insanely lucky and had a full ride but I applied for a scholarship during my student teaching and was able to use that $1,000 for my MEd 3 years later. Currently my husband just received a merit based scholarship in his second quarter of his MBA. There is money out there, you just have to look for it.
    Go Cougs:)

  9. 1.) Santa Clara University-class of '10 (senior)
    2,) n/a
    3.) I think you had some good do/don't comments but I think the most important thing about college is finding what feels best for you and then making it work. I went to a medium sized private university in an area I like a lot and got enough scholarship money to make it less expensive than a state school…I also worked darn hard growing up to get what I wanted however. I have a brother who went to a state school and probably didn't get as much out of it as he could have because i think it was a little too big for him to get 1 on 1 attention and he's an introvert. Also, whoever put down networking and going where you would ultimately like to work was spot on. I'm graduating into a shitty job market but have had 4 decent job offers because (a) I have networked my a** off while here (SCU is amazing place for this!!) and (b) I followed DN's advice and worked internships every summer in my field of work. It is frustrating to see my friends struggle trying to line things up after graduating, I wish everyone had the foresight to realize as amazing as college is, it does end…just like saving for retirement, you now have to plan ahead for when you do graduate. Ultimately though as everyone has said, HAVE FUN!!! and get involved, it helps with the former!

  10. This excellent advice that I plan to share with my granddaughter who will be leaving for college in the fall. Since the Credit Card Act of 2009 now requires that a parent co-signs for the credit card, I don't think that will be a major issue for her. She currently has a debit card that she has been learning how to manage her finances and budgeting and for the most part has been fairly responsible (she's getting better). She is looking forward to the college experience. Hopefully, she will enjoy it so much that dropping out will be the last thought on her agenda. Thanks for the great tips. Great second opinion to reference, if she asks for one.

  11. I'm on board with the whole, go to a Junior College idea some have put out here. Definitely a cost saver and statistics show students do better when they transfer. Saves tons of money to live at home, and some people do still get the college experience, depending on their home environment. Some people who move out don't know how to handle it and go berzerk with credit cards and irresponsibility. I stopped being a college commuter when I moved for Graduate school and that's when I got the experiences of college, but I was more mature and financially stable when I did it. And for goodness sakes! APPLY FOR SCHOLARSHIPS! Any and every single one, even if you're unsure. I had a full ride through undergrad, but only because of multiple scholarships (and mom/gramma helped pay for books). I even remember applying for some that people thought were only for Latino(a) students and it wasn't. They all wondered how I got it and couldn't believe when I told them that I "just applied." You've got to put in the hours, do the research and read carefully! Even the small, couple hundred dollar scholarships will help!

  12. Dude, this post is about 2 years too late for me (class of 2008!)

    But I ditto everything you said with a huge emphasis on getting involved in campus life! Go to parties, get involved with clubs, and at least have one teacher friend!

  13. I so remember the midnight taco runs – Roberto's by any chance? They were always crowded between 12-2 am when I was in college in San Diego. Graduated in 97, but we still go back for taco's whenever we get out there to visit the in-laws… yum! But on to your question:

    DO research the professors as well as the subject before you sign up for a class. Talk to people who have taken the classes and find out if the class is as advertised, or if the professor strays off the course subject so frequently that you can't really apply it where you need it.

    DON'T take a class where the teacher wrote the book. Each time I did, I was astounded by the professor's lack of objectivity with regard to the subject. Those were the classes that expected me to memorize the party line and didn't allow for any free exchange of ideas; even when dealing with subjective issues like literary interpretation and political ideology.

  14. I second the part-time job thing but do NOT let yourself get burnt out…
    Do live at home (if you can)
    Don't have a serious relationship / get married
    Don't do back-to-back degrees… take time out before grad school

  15. "Do look in to going to a public school. I made the decision to go private and man oh man did I pay for that choice. My school ran about $30k/yr, quite a bit different than the $5K-10k/yr public school options. Looking back I wish I would have considered going to the University of Washington. Heck, it’s probably a more prestigious school, and definitely better known, than my Alma mater. It’s okay though, I don’t regret my choice as I had the best four years of my life, but I SHOULD have explored public options more carefully."

    This was exactly my thoughts upon graduate from our Alma Mater.

    When I was a high school senior, I didn't realize what the difference between $10k for a public school and $30k for a private school meant. Because it was all just unrealistically high values for me. I loved our school, but man was it expensive!

    However, you would have _never_ been able to convince me of this before I went, but after, absolutely. Funny how retrospect works. =)

    –Also, I _do not_ support the junior college for two years first place. My best friends to this day are those I met in the dorm my freshman year, this is the last true opportunity to make new friends and I think it is socially silly not to experience dorm life for your first year of college. If nothing else than for the social aspect. To me, that is worth the extra money that you'd have to pay going to a 4-year college.

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