Last week, I discussed the mistakes I made in college and what I’d do differently. While I would do those things differently, they are part of my story now. I’ve become older and wiser and look back on my college years with fresh eyes. I made my fair share of mistakes, but I also did a few things right in college as well, that helped me immensely by preparing me for adult life and a career.
Here are some things I did right in college:
Last week, I discussed that one of my mistakes was that I didn’t use my income to fund the cost of my tuition. Nonetheless, I am extremely happy that I worked all four years of college. I learned discipline, time management, and how to deal with a variety of people. My first job was as a Human Resources assistant, so I was often interfacing with others, preparing checks, updating databases, etc. It was a pretty great first job and sure beat McDonald’s! Working all four years gave me some semblance of independence and gave me the intense work ethic I have today.
One of my greatest investments that I made in college was studying abroad. Yes, this was a case of spending money on an uncertain investment, but it was so worth it. Luckily, I was actually smart enough to save for this trip on my own. My student loans wouldn’t cover the cost, but I was determined to pay with cash.
After working for a whole year, I saved up to go to a summer program in Spain. After studying Spanish for five years, I went to Spain to really get a glimpse into the culture and master the language. I learned more Spanish in my short summer program than I did in five years. I lived with a host family, and spoke and stumbled my way through the language. After college, nearly all my careers up until now have required some level of Spanish. In some cases, I actually got jobs because of my Spanish speaking ability, so this was an investment that was well worth it, both experientially and financially.
Get Assistance When I Needed It
In college, one of my greatest difficulties was writing essays. When I briefly decided to become a Philosophy minor, my writing load tripled. I had a hard time writing clearly, my grammar wasn’t great, and I could hardly string two words together to make it sound somewhat interesting and poetic. In college, I met one-on-one with my professors and received writing assistance in the writer’s lab. Later on in graduate school, when all I did was write papers, I did the same.
I am happy to report that over six years of taking the time to genuinely improve my writing, that the work has paid off. The irony is not lost on me now that my primary source of income is through writing. It just goes to show that you can improve on something that you are not naturally gifted at. Effort and time = improvement.
Trying Many Different Jobs
As mentioned earlier, my first job was as an HR assistant. After that I wanted a change from the office environment after returning from Spain, so I worked in a pizza shop. Then I worked as a telemarketer, which was a hilarious and soul-crushing job. I later stumbled upon a scholarship for students in the arts, which then turned into me being a theater teaching artist in elementary schools. That job later turned into me being a program assistant for that scholarship.
Within six months of graduation, I landed a good job at an arts nonprofit and I know that my experience working as a teaching artist and program assistant helped me secure that position. I am glad that I tried out many different jobs. It helped me realize what I do and don’t want out of a job. It shaped my work ethic, gave me a breadth of experience, and set me apart from others after graduation.
Start a Savings Account
While I didn’t save money with the goal of paying off my student loans, or putting money towards tuition, I did start a savings account while in college and got in the habit of saving. I got serious when I started to save for Spain. I learned about the beauty of automation and started to think about purchases as a matter of hours worked. Suddenly, my minimum wage jobs didn’t seem that great and my money wasn’t going too far. I made a ton of financial mistakes in college, but slowly started to become more financially educated and wise to saving and budgeting.
What about you? What did you do right in college?
Melanie Lockert is a freelance wordsmith, a passionate debt fighter, and frugal lovin’ minimalist who writes at DearDebt.com. She devotes 50% of her income to student loan debt and is often dreaming of her next adventure.