College Is Expensive: Get Your Money’s Worth

by mike on August 11, 2011

“Find me a college!”  With college tuition costing so much money these days, you had better make sure you (or your child if you are a parent reading this) make the most out of the experience.  In Zac Bissonette’s book Debt Free U, he discusses many of the things that go into getting a good education.  (By the way, I highly recommend this book!)  Let’s take a look at some of his ideas on getting your money’s worth in college and my thoughts on them.

Join the Honors Program at Your School

Now, obviously you have to have the grades and performance level to be able to do this.  However, if you want a top-notch education at an in-state school price, then getting into the honors program is a must.  You will often get some of the best professors the school has to offer to take classes from.  Also, you will generally have much smaller class sizes.  It looks great on your resume as well.

I did a quick search and found out a ton of great information about the Western Illinois University Honors College.  The Centennial Honors College (which is what WIU calls it), just like any honor college, has specific requirements to be eligible.  You have to have a 28 ACT score or higher OR a 26-27 ACT score and in the top 15% of your graduating class OR a 24-25 ACT and in the top 10% of your graduating class.  Transfer students can also be eligible for the program if they have  a 3.4 GPA based on 12 or more semester hours.

One of the biggest advantages financially is that most honors programs offer large scholarships for their students.  WIU offers scholarships up to $5,000 for their Centennial students, which pretty much covers the entire cost of in-state tuition for a semester.

Choose Your Major Wisely

Everyone knows that the average college student changes their major several times.  I did.  I started out as a Biology/pre-med major.  I haven’t prescribed anything lately or performed any surgeries, so obviously that didn’t work out.  I ended up getting a degree in education.  I highly recommend the book 48 Days To the Work You Love by Dan Miller for anyone heading to college.  It will help you figure out what you are passionate about and what you have been called to do in your life.

Also, keep in mind that you don’t need to totally flip out about choosing the “perfect” major.  There are many english majors who are in business and business majors who teach fitness.  The point is to keep your major broad and chances are, you will be able to use your skills for many different career choices when you graduate.  Also, adding a second major will increase your flexibility and marketability when entering the workforce.

Do Everything Possible To Graduate In Four Years

Actually, graduating in three would be even better.  The obvious point is that the longer you are in college, the more you have to pay. Here are a few things you can do to insure you will graduate on time:

1) Be very meticulous and persistent about taking all of the required classes to graduate.  I know from my experience, this is not an easy task.  Schools seem to purposely make this difficult.  I can remember the registration process every semester being one of the most stressful parts of the whole school year.   Give me a twenty page paper any day, it was much less complicated than figuring out what classes to take so you would graduate on time.

2) Take college credit classes in high school.  Almost every high school I know of offers classes you can receive college credit for.  I know of people who have entered college with the whole first year of college already taken care of by racking up credits in high school.

3) Rack up even more credits by taking summer classes at a community college.  I definitely did this one.  Not only were they way cheaper, they were much easier too.  I’m not saying that the purpose of college is to take the easiest classes possible.  However, when you are taking a “gen ed” class that has nothing to do with your major, then I am saying go ahead, take the easiest and least expensive class possible.

Visit Your Professors

This reminds me of my Spanish class I took the first semester of my freshman year.  I took four years of Spanish in high school, but I honestly didn’t learn a whole lot.  I was not even close to being fluent in Spanish.  At Truman State, they assumed since I had four years already, that I must know a good amount of Spanish.  So, they placed me in Spanish II.  I walked in the first day and the teacher starts speaking in only Spanish to us.  I started looking around and realized that everyone else in the class was nodding their head and responding to her in Spanish.  I was out of my league!

Needless to say, I spent many hours at my professor’s office.  She was more than glad to help me through it.  I think she was just glad someone cared enough to actually seek out extra help.  Plus, a portion of each of our tests involved us going up to her desk and having a conversation in Spanish with her.  I am certain that she took it a little easier on me because she knew I was working like crazy to succeed.  I ended up with a C in that class, but it would have been much worse (as in a big fat F) if I hadn’t sought help from my professor.

Get Involved In Extracurricular Activities

There are tons of things to get involved in on college campuses.  Whether in be sports, concerts, lectures, service groups, or many other activities, most are free for college students.  Why not take advantage of them while you can?  One thing I wish I could have experienced in college was going to a major division I school and going to football and basketball games: what a blast!  Oh well, I still went to many of the things offered, especially freshman year.  I definitely could have experienced a lot more  throughout my college career if I just would have sought  out those experiences a little more.

By taking the above advice, you can truly get an amazing education and have a great college experience.  The great thing: you don’t have to spend $40,000 per year to do so either.

What ideas do you have to make the most out of the college experience?

Photo Source: oberazzi

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