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Set yourself up for success while you are in college

August 14, 2008

Have you heard of the College Money Network? A group of college students and recent grads have banded together to provide YOU with helpful posts. They are running a sweet contest, asking bloggers (and blog readers) to share their best money management ideas for students. Check out the various members of the network for more ways to get extra entries. I am feeling lucky, and would really love a new Ipod Nano, so here is what I think every college student needs to hear to help your finances long term

The most important thing you can do while you are in school is make yourself employable for graduation. Don’t spend four years of their life (and who knows how much money) with nothing to show for it but friendships and photos (which are invaluable, but won’t pay your rent). Here are my tips for preparing for life after graduation. Feel free to add your own tips in the comments!

Make a resume as soon as you can. I didn’t make one until I was at least a sophomore. My boyfriend made one when he was a freshman. Because of that, he scored an internship after his freshman year, something that few people in our major are able to do. Take advantage of your career center and helpful friends and family members who have done a resume before.

Join some extracurriculars that interest you. Sample many activities, but you’ll likely end up spending most of your time on one or two. Look within your own department, there can be good networking opportunities there.

Get to know your professors, if possible. Some schools are good for this, and more, some classes. You may not have luck in a lecture class with 300 freshman, but in your major classes you should have better luck. Through chatting with my professors and doing well in school, I got the chance to be a paid lab researcher for a semester, a paid lab teaching assistant for another, and some nice letters of recommendation when I applied to graduate school.

Keep your grades up. I had a lot of classmates say that employers prefer well rounded students to high GPAs to justify less studying. This may be true, depending on where you are applying. However, there is no rule that says you can’t have a high GPA and be well-rounded! Find the methods of studying that work best for you. Sometimes it helps to study in groups (other times it is distracting, at least it was with my friends!), sometimes it helps to redo all the homework problems, and sometimes it is brute memorization. Don’t be afraid to use the professors office hours, and not just the day before the exam.

Study abroad. This isn’t for everyone, but I highly recommend everyone at least consider it. Think you can’t afford it? It is likely your school has exchange programs that make it almost equivalent. You may even be able to get a scholarship. Not only will this give you something interesting to talk about in your job interviews, it will be the time of your life.

Consider working part time, if you can, particularly if you can find something in your field (see “get to know your professors”). Not only will this provide extra spending money, it’ll force you to organize your time, and it demonstrates to a future employer you’ve got your stuff together. During my first interview for an internship, they commented not only on my school work, but the fact that I worked as a waitress and was used to dealing with, well, pretty much anyone. Don’t do this if your grades, activities, or happiness will suffer too much, but I knew a lot of people who were able to pull off part time jobs.

7 Comments leave one →
  1. tom permalink
    August 14, 2008 6:19 pm

    A suggestion for the last one… work a university job like a library card swiper or a intramural sports supervisor (like me). You basically get paid to do your homework… not paid much… but paid.

    Another tip… Internships! Internship experience is very important when being considered for a job.

  2. Bonnie permalink
    August 15, 2008 7:35 am

    After toiling in retail, I took a job at a law office during my last two years of college. That job (still on my resume) is STILL helping me to get interviews and jobs, 10 years later.

  3. August 15, 2008 11:30 am

    Great advice! I would also add, look for jobs like Resident Adviser in the housing at your university. I was an RA for two years, and that meant free housing (in my own room), in addition to a stipend. It was a great way to cut costs while making money at the same time.

  4. August 15, 2008 9:44 pm

    Great post!

    I’m all about working part time while you’re in school. You’ve got to have EXPERIENCE, in addition to the education. Make yourself more marketable by having some work experience.

    To this point in my life, I count the work experience EQUALLY as important as my schooling.

  5. August 16, 2008 9:09 am

    Great tips! I agree with the above comments about internships/part-time jobs during college. It shows that you have motivation and can juggle a few things at once. 🙂


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