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One of the best ways to learn about something new is to spend a little time with people who have been there and done that.
If you want to be an awesome soccer player, you watch awesome soccer players—or, better yet, play with them. If you want to be a millionaire, you spend time studying the principles millionaires used to make their money.
That’s true when it comes to college too. If you want to do college right, then you should spend a little time learning from former college students who did college right.
But guess what? We’ve already done a lot of the work for you. I talked with some of my co-workers and friends who are recent college graduates, and they had some helpful advice to offer new students.
Related: Not a new college freshman? Ask yourself these questions before going back to school
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A lot of them encouraged new freshmen to look for a part-time job while they were in school. “Find one preferably in the area you think you want to study, so you can start filtering what you want to do when you graduate,” Kasey said. “Not only will you make money to pay your way through school, but you will get some great professional experience that builds your resume.”
When it comes to academics, Gennean has some important points:
“Study. Seriously, do it. Not only will you feel good about doing well and knowing the material, but studying hard and excelling in your courses can lead to opportunities like academic awards and scholarships.”
She adds, “Smart is cool, and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise!” Preach it!
“Do research on your major and know what career options you’ll have and how much jobs in that field pay before you go down that path,” Kasey says.
She also points out the importance of healthy balance of your academics and social life. “Remember that your GPA is like your reputation. Once it’s ruined it takes forever to fix it!”
When it comes to living on or off campus, I love Devin Lee’s take:
“Live on campus your freshman year. It will save you money with all the free activities that are provided, and it will MAKE you go to the library!”
But what about later in college?
“Live at least one year with roommates off campus where you have to pay for your water, power and cable,” Devin Lee says. “This way, you have a slow reality check about life after college.”
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If you’re one of the fortunate college students whose parents will foot the bill the whole way through, you should be even more responsible with how you manage your money.
“The way you manage the money they provide you shows how much you appreciate and respect them,” Emily says. “Use those four years to train yourself to budget that income. Whenever I asked my dad for more money, I felt guilty as if I was in debt—because, if I was in the real world, I would have been!”
Let’s not forget about graduate students. I love the advice Eric gave me about pursuing a post-graduate degree. “My advice is to delay entering a master’s program for a few years to build vocational and life experiences. Pay off the undergrad loans and save enough money to pay for your master’s.”
If you want to go to school debt-free (and you should!), that’s solid advice.
Finally, no matter what your situation is as you head off to school, Nicole pretty much sums it all up. “Never give up, never stop pushing yourself, and never stop learning,” she said. I couldn’t agree more.
College will probably be one of the most memorable four-year periods of your life. Make it filled with even more good memories by following these tips from the people who have been down that road before you. And in four years, you can confidently tell the new freshmen, “It was worth it.”
Rachel Cruze is a seasoned communicator and presenter, helping Americans learn the proper ways to handle money and stay out of debt. Her new book Smart Money Smart Kids, co-authored by her dad Dave Ramsey, released April 2014 and debuted at #1 on the New York Times best-sellers list. You can follow Rachel on Twitter at @RachelCruze, online at rachelcruze.com, or at facebook.com/rachelramseycruze.