A few years ago, I turned 32. It dawned on me that half of my life ago I was 16. This seemed a little odd, and at the risk of sounding cliche, I wish I had known then what I did at 32. So I wrote “Advice to My Adolescent Self.” Now that I’m a few years older and further in my career, I have written to myself once again, but this time to College Kaci. Also, thanks to Earnest for inspiring this blog post. It was recently ranked #1 by LendEDU. See article on the rankings here. 🙂
Dear College Kaci,
They say that with age comes wisdom, and perhaps that is so. You’re wiser than High School Kaci, but 30-Something Kaci still has even more knowledge to impart to you. College is a weird and wonderful time when you’re faced with pure independence that also comes with responsibility. It’s a balancing act of learning and earning a degree to better you for the future, while also learning more about the “real world” and having some fun. The older you get, and the more plates you have to juggle, you will realize the true importance of balance in your life.
Balance is key in any stage of your life. Just wait until you have kids. (You have two by the way, and they are healthy and hilarious!) College can feel overwhelming, so I have a few insights that might help you out. Looking back, I did some things well and some things not so well. You have the power to do it all right.
College is your first chance to really be independent. You’re now on your own (for the most part), which means it’s up to you to make daily decisions. Nobody is going to wake you up and tell you to go to class, you have to just go. You’ll learn pretty quick that it can’t be all play if you want good grades.
Speaking of grades, something even more important is experience. I’m not talking of fun nights hanging out with friends . . . though those times will make for nice memories. Rather, I’m talking about real work experience. It seems like a Catch 22, but one thing you’ll hear from all the employers after college is that they want someone with experience.
The best way to get experience is to join clubs for your major and then work toward an internship. Most colleges (including yours) actually require you to intern before graduating, which is awesome. Some internships are even paid, which is a nice bonus. You could get a part-time job in a place of business you might want to work after college. This will help get your foot in the door as well as give you much-needed extra cash.
You had a wonderful internship and also worked, which is awesome. One thing you did wrong though is put all your hopes in one company. Sometimes companies can’t hire you even if they want you. It’s a financial thing. It’s best to apply to many jobs and stay open-minded, just as you would when applying to colleges. You may even find a place that you like better and that pays better.
While we’re on the subject of money, there are plenty of scholarships at your college that are only offered to upperclassmen. That means you can get more than just the few you earned before starting college. For one, less people know about these so there is less competition. For two, most of them happen within college departments to narrow them down even more, and your advisor should be able to help you apply.
One thing you’re great at is making friends and talking to people. So far, you’ve only thought of that as pure social enjoyment. But meeting the right people can lead to life-changing opportunities. Keep in touch with contacts that might become colleagues later on as well as any favorite college professors who could turn out to be great mentors. And advisors are not just good for scholarship help and mapping out classes. They also have the lowdown on a lot of internships and entry-level positions.
One more piece of advice. After landing that first job, don’t go crazy with your paycheck. A lot of young people live frugally in college to not rack up debt, only to go on a spending binge once they have a decent revenue stream. That’s not to say you have to stay on the Ramen noodles diet and wear all thrift store clothes. But you shouldn’t go out and buy a bunch of clothes, a new car, etc. all at once. Start spending small, as in a few new outfits for work and trading Ramen noodles for food not found in a box. If you do want to save for that big purchase, check out a service Earnest has, which helps you refinance your student loans to not only save thousands but make your payments more affordable. Then, after you graduate, you will want to read another little piece of advice from yours’ truly, “What Every College Graduate Should Know.”
Overall, you did pretty well for yourself, and I’m proud of you. I can’t wait to see what you do with this advice, and I wish there was a 40-Something Kaci to give me some advice on parenting!