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College: A big decision

By Erik Folgate

Going to college is a big step in a young person’s life.  For the first time, that young person goes off on his or her own to conquer life without mom and dad standing over his or her shoulder.  The problem is that too many college bound seniors in high school are ill prepared to manage their money while in college.  Some college students are still fully supported by their parent while going through college which delays the realities of managing money even further.

I want you to go to college.  Contrary to what some people believe, an undergraduate college degree still possesses a tremendous amount of value.  Employers look at someone differently when they see that the applicant has endured the process of surviving college.   What I do not want you to do is leave college with the second D — debt.  The sad fact is that most college students today leave with two D’s — a degree and debt.  I left school with $29,000 in student loans and credit cards.  It was an overwhelming feeling.  A feeling that I hope will go away very soon by my perseverence to pay off the loans. 

If your only choices are state schools, then going through college living debt free is very feasible.  Tuition is cheap and if you find a cheap apartment fairly close to campus, you can pay for all of your expenses by delivering pizzas or serving tables 4 nights a week.  Believe me, if you are disciplined enough then your “avid studying habits” will not faulter. 

If you are fortunate to have parents who did a great job at planning for your college years, then be fortunate and do not take advantage of the money they provide you.  I still encourage you to work while in college even if it is a low-profile job on campus.  If your parents give you a certain amount per month to live off, then treat it like your monthly budget.  Spend some of it and save some of it. 

If you are thinking about going to a private school, then ask yourself two questions.  “Does my family have the money to pay for the tuition?” and “Am I receiving a scholarship to pay for all or most of the tuition?”  If you answer no to both of these questions, then I seriously ask you to consider if private school is worth the money.  When it comes to the real world, a degree is a degree.  I know that you hear about the kid who went to harvard, and now he’s working on wall street making 6 figures, but those are far and few between.  And chances are that his degree did not get him the job, HE got that job.  Employers recognize a college degree significantly, but what makes an applicant stand out to an employer is his or her personality.  You make who you are, not a prestigious university.  I am not saying that you should pass up harvard to go to the university of central florida, but I beg the question, “Is it worth it?”  Every state in the nation has one or two great state schools.  In fact, if you are into research and development, a state school is probably more beneficial than most private schools with limited funding. 

I wish that someone would have had the guts to tell me to factor in the financial aspect of choosing a college 7 years ago, because I would probably not have such a large debt cloud hanging over my head right now.

Erik Folgate
Erik and his wife, Lindzee, live in Orlando, Florida with a baby boy on the way. Erik works as an account manager for a marketing company, and considers counseling friends, family and the readers of Money Crashers his personal ministry to others. Erik became passionate about personal finance and helping others make wise financial decisions after racking up over $20k in credit card and student loan debt within the first two years of college.

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  • SK

    Also consider tech schools. Many of them are 2 year programs so you can start earning money sooner. A 2 year degree from a court reporting school can bring you in 100k easy. Aren’t you kinda wishing that you were a court reporter right about now?

    A four year degree is worthless unless you use it. Dont be pressured to go to college bc society says you have to. Figure out what you want and follow your dreams.

  • http://www.erikfolgate.com erik.folgate

    That’s a great point, sally. Four year college is NOT the only path! There is a huge shortage for technical trades and professions in America. Plumbers, electricians, and welders make well over 100k once they have the experience.

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