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Off to College? Advice for the Journey

"Experience is a hard teacher because she gives the test first, the lesson afterwards."  ―Vernon Sanders Law

As another group of students head off to college this fall, it has those of us in the older generation reflecting on the lessons we learned later in life that we wish we’d known when we were heading off to college. What would we tell our younger selves if we had the chance?

 

 

1. Practice Financial Literacy as an Investment in Your Future

“It’s not about better time management. It’s about better life management.”  
— Alexandra of The Productivity Zone

For many students, getting into college has been the goal for so long that post-college life can feel like a giant blur. It’s filled with wishes and dreams, but not always a tangible vision of a specific future. One can get so wrapped up in the big ideas like saving the planet and finding oneself, that practicalities like money, housing, and career paths can all seem very dull. It’s easy to believe that if you do what you love, the money will follow, but if you don’t know HOW to make money doing what you love or you don’t know exactly what you love as a career right now, it’s not just going to fall into your lap. Financial literacy is essential to every profession, whether you want to go into the arts or international development. So a reminder from your future self, that these practicalities are incredibly important down the line. The more time you take to think about them now, the easier life will be at all stages. Imagine, for example, if instead of spending the next 20 years of your life paying rent, you (or your parents if possible) invested in a home now when you could actually split the mortgage with multiple roommates. Or if instead of spending that cash from your student job on going out with friends, you began putting it into the stock market. What investments can you make now that your future self will thank you for?

 

 

2. Hard Work Still Matters

“True freedom is impossible without a mind made free by discipline.” ―Mortimer J. Adler


All your life up until this point, you’ve been told you need good grades to get into college, so what’s your motivation for getting good grades IN college? We have bad news and good news. Good grades aren’t actually the end goal. They never were. Grades actually are an indicator of how much of that subject you are learning and a lot of that learning, particularly in subjects in your major, you’ll need for the future - it’s what will make you competitive for internships and jobs. It can mean the difference between paying to learn and getting paid to learn - whether you’re aiming for a post-graduate education or a dream job. Scholarships, internships, better jobs, study abroad experiences, career networking - these all open up to you when you focus on getting everything you can out of the opportunities in front of you. Which means putting everything you have into your learning. 

 

 

3. Find a Healthy Balance

"A year from now you will wish you had started today." —Unknown


While we expect college to be one of the most fun times of your life, one of the challenges of the college years is balancing your new sense of freedom and a burgeoning social life with making healthy choices. We’re not just talking about safe sex and saying no to drugs. While nearly eight million students participate in high school athletics, only 480,000 compete as NCAA athletes, which means that many college students who were training on a regular basis lose the structured workouts when they begin their higher education. Be proactive in fostering life-long habits and routines that help you put your long-term health first - eat right, exercise, get enough sleep. Most colleges offer intramural sports, physical education classes, and free gym memberships - so take advantage - not just for the beach body, but for the present and future self that deserves a healthy vessel to live in. 

We know you’re just starting out on your own. We know you have a lot of mistakes of your own to make and you need to make them, you really do. We also know this sort of long-term thinking might not seem like it matters in your 20s, but trust us – your future self will thank you.

 

 

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Linda Lederer Bernstein

Linda Lederer Bernstein

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