College Student? Do This!

I want to encourage all college students (and their parents) to give considerable thought about how your choices now will impact your future.  Look into your crystal ball at the time of graduation; then five years later; then ten years later…and do it from a financial perspective based on the major you’ve chosen (or are considering).

When I went to college it was inexpensive and my approach was very carefree.  I made decisions based on what was easy, chose classes that didn’t start too early in the day and finished up early on Fridays.  In other words, I was cruising.  Being an average student, my parents were wise enough to send me to college the summer before my freshman year so I could get a head start.  I remember starting my first karate classes when karate was just being introduced in the United States.  I earned a brown belt in Shotokan then later a black belt in Tae Kwon Do.  I loved karate and I remember riding in the car telling my father that I thought that I wanted to be a karate instructor and own my own school…as my career.  He was wise enough to not say what he was thinking, “Are you crazy? I didn’t spend all that money on college for you to become a karate instructor!”  Instead he only made two comments, “Look five, ten, twenty years down the road at your life as a karate instructor and be sure (as you can) that that’s the life you want.  If you decide it is, just be the very best karate instructor you can be.”  My own instructor was living in his dojo (school) at the time, which I thought was pretty cool but I was wise enough to see there might be a better long-term future I could build for myself from a financial perspective.  That brighter future could also include teaching karate for fun rather than for a living.

Why do I tell this story?  Today, college is a big investment and you’ll want to get a great return on your time and money.  As I look back, I realize how important my early decisions were.  As a college student, the decisions that you make from this point forward will have a tremendous impact on the life you build for yourself.  Let me be clear, there is nothing wrong with being a karate instructor.  Just be sure you make your choices thoughtfully.  ‘See’ your future based on the decisions you make over the next few years.  I would add that while money is certainly not the most important thing, money does matter.  Some choices will be more financially rewarding than others.

As I look at the statistics around college graduates, a couple of themes tend to emerge:

  • Job opportunities. The most job offers tend to center around what I call ‘numbers’: engineering, economics, accounting, computer science, business finance.  A high percentage of these graduates receive at least one job offer at graduation.  At the other end of the scale are job offers hovering in the thirty percent range: visual and performing arts, education, English, communications and journalism.
  • Starting incomes. Similarly, the highest starting salaries were for just about anyone graduating with an engineering degree.  Accountants and other ‘numbers-oriented’ degree-holders also scored well.  At the bottom end of starting salaries were graduates in the arts, education and animal sciences.

The takeaway

By thoughtfully considering the decisions you make today and over the next few years, you have the opportunity to take control of the direction of your destiny rather than leaving it up to chance or other people.

One final tip

Understand that financial success is always built around other people so the more people you have great relationships with, the more likely you are to succeed.  Use college as an opportunity to connect with as many people as possible through active participation in campus activities.  Nurture these relationships and you’ll be sowing the seeds of future success.