Thousands of students are headed back to college. But for many, college will become nothing more than a huge wealth trap. The statistics don’t lie. According to the Associated Press, more than half of America’s recent college graduates are either unemployed or working in a job that doesn’t require a bachelor’s degree.
At the same time, Class of 2013 grads averaged $35,200 in total debt, while the aggregate U.S. student loan debt has surpassed the $1 trillion mark. So how does a student make college pay off? Here are five tips to turn four years of work into a solid investment.
Choose the right major.
Spending $35,000 a year on tuition to earn a degree that will earn you only $18,000 a year just doesn’t make sense. But college students do it all the time. Unfortunately, a degree in creative writing just doesn’t pay the bills. According to Salary.com, degrees with the worst return on college investment include sociology, fine arts, education, religious studies, hospitality, nutrition, psychology, and communications. Conversely, degrees in engineering, computer science, and medicine can make college pay off handsomely.
Fine arts are fine, but take the time to get more out of college.
OK, not everyone wants to become a doctor, engineer, or tech geek. And careers like social work, although low paying, can become emotionally fulfilling while giving back to society at the same time. So what do you do if you love teaching, are a fan of art history, or love psychology?
Learn a marketable skill while pursuing your fine arts degree. Such skills can become a great source of second income, or provide temporary employment while pursuing your dream career. And college is the perfect environment to learn these highly sought after skills. Become proficient in financial planning, creating mobile aps, programming HTML5, or working with adobe photoshop or video editing software.
The old adage goes, “it’s not how much you earn, its how much you keep.” College is a great place to learn about personal finance and investing which can return huge rewards after graduation. Take a personal finance class or join an investment club. Learning how to manage and grow your money will help you do more with less.
Finally, universities have increasingly added entrepreneur classes to their course selections. Teachers, classmates, and entrepreneur student groups can provide you with valuable lessons in the art of entrepreneurship. So you want to be a teacher, who says you can’t be a great teacher, while starting you own tutoring firm on the side?
Get to work, be out in four.
This one is pretty self-explanatory. The longer you’re in school the more debt you’re going to pile up. Plain and simple. Yet, according to the Department of Education, fewer than 40% of students who enter college finish within four years. Get in, get out and you’ll save a nice chunk of change.
Start building your network early.
Networking is the name of the game. More often than not, landing that plum job can come down to not just what you know, but who you know. Realize the importance of building your network from day one. Involvement in non-social student organizations and in department activities are frequently missed opportunities to build long-lasting connections. Remember, network today because landing a job could depend on it tomorrow.
Snag that internship.
According to a survey by the Chronicle of Higher Education, internships are the most important thing that employers look for when evaluating a recent college graduate. Frequently, this “on the job” experience matters more than a student’s major or grade-point average. In fact, a solid internship can often turn into a firm job offer after graduation.
So how does one obtain one of these high power internships that paves the way to a lucrative or fulfilling career? Lauren Berger, author of All Work, No Pay, suggests that students start applying early and that they take full advantage of their school’s career center.
In addition, landing a great internship involves the same techniques as landing a great job. The more practice you have at applying for internships, the better prepared you’ll be when it comes to applying for jobs after graduation.
BMWK, what advice do you have for making sure that college becomes a wealth creator instead of a wealth destroyer?
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