How to Get Through College in 4 Years
By: Kevin Rostad
When a high school senior is approaching the end of the road for their studies, are they even considering college anymore? Are they more inclined to forgo college and try for a real world job first? Most high school students do seem to be by-passing college not so much because they don’t want to get a college education, but because they have no idea how they could possibly afford to go to college for four years in order to get their degree. There is a simple way to get through college on a low budget you just have to know where to look. Here are my tips on how someone can go to college and get through it in just 4 years.
1. Picking Your College
One of the first challenges is finding a college that will accept you. The easiest way of going about this is to concentrate on your studies and extra-curricular activities from the moment you start high school. The better your grades are and the more activities you do outside the classroom, the more likely you will be able to get into a good college. Then, when you become a junior you have to start looking around for colleges you are interested in and that fit into your price range. If you are not planning on getting a scholarship and you will not have a large college budget, you need to be looking around for less prestigious colleges that offer 4-year degree programs. I only applied to one and was accepted but I would suggest applying to as many as possible so you have as many options as possible once you graduate. This is your toughest step in pursuing your degree. Once you have found your college, it is then time to find out what the tuition cost will be.
2. Picking Your Major/Minor
Once you have chosen your college, you must then find a degree program within that college that interests you for both your major and your minor. There is really no rush on this as you may just want to take a bunch of classes the first year for programs you might be interested in to see which ones you like best. Many students do not declare a major or minor until their second year, and there is no problem with that. Even if you select a major or minor when you first start, chances are that you will not be leaving with a degree in that program. Many students who select a major or minor when they first start end up finding other programs that interest them more and just simply switch to those instead. I, for example, started as a criminal justice major but during my sophomore year changed it to broadcast journalism. There is not a big rush to select either your major or your minor, but it is best to have both selected before you start your junior year.
3. Paying Your Tuition
If you are going to a more affordable college, your best bet is to look for grants and loans if you are in that much need for money. But an easy way to get the money you need without taking out a loan or looking for a grant is to make your own money. It is understandable that most jobs do not pay someone with only a high school diploma very well. It is also understandable that if you really want to get your degree, you will be willing to have more than one job and to work as many hours as possible before your semester starts. When your first semester begins, you will more than likely only be able to have one job and trust me you will want to have a job at all times during your college career. When you have started classes you will need to cut down on your work hours but if you are able to get at least 20 hours a week, this will help you in your later semesters as well as your current one. I have had a job during my entire college career without which I would have never made it through these past four years. Next comes paying for the various things that come along with being a college student.
4. Paying for Books
This is one of the things that scares students most when the next semester begins: how many books will I have and how much will it cost? In recent years it has become easier and easier to find cheap books, it is just knowing where to look. It’s true that many colleges have books stores with all the books you may need and they even occasionally have used copies, which are cheaper. The fact of the matter is that even the used copy price is usually a rip off. The best way to find your books at the cheapest price possible is to look online. There are many places online that students can find any textbook that they are looking for, for any class at a very affordable price. Another way of saving money as far as textbooks go is selling your books back to the school. Many colleges have buy back programs which allow students to sell their books back to the school once their previous semester is over and they no long need their textbooks. You usually won’t get much back, if anything, for your books, but every little bit helps. I did not start buying books online until my senior year but I really wish I would have started sooner due to the low prices I found online. Hint. Hint.
Chances are that if you are going to a less expensive college, you do not live within walking distance of your school. With this being the case, students must then find a way to get themselves down to school for as little as possible. Many students choose to drive themselves to school but then they usually run into the problem of trying to find a spot and paying for parking each day. Now, since we are in the process of trying to save money, here is a helpful tip on accomplishing this. Many people seem to forget or ignore the fact that most every city has a public transportation system whether it be buses, light rail or something else similar to these. What is nice about these is that some colleges increase your tuition a little bit so that their students are able to use this public transportation for FREE. Yes that is what I said, FREE. This is one of the best ways for students to save money as you save all that money you would normally be spending on parking, gas, etc. if you were to drive yourself. I have been using the bus and light rail to get to school every semester and I can’t even imagine how much money I have saved in the process. The only set back is it may take you longer to get to school as you will be following the cities transportation schedule. But is that really that much of a hassle when you are saving so much money? I didn’t think so.
It is true that many students spend an entire day at school and therefore must find some way to get food into their systems so that they can function during the whole day. There are a couple of ways to save money here. One is always having an energy bar, nutrition bar or something similar to these with you at all times. You never know when you might get hungry or just be low on energy. I didn’t do this my first couple of years, but I kind of wish I had. Next, you can always make your meals at home and just take them with you down to school. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy, just something that will keep you going during the day. I did do this my first two years and it saved me a lot of money. The last option is if your school has places for you to eat, set a weekly budget for yourself. Setting a budget for yourself for your weekly meals down at school will help you better manage and save your money. I have been doing this during my last two years and it has worked out very well for me. My only suggestion would be to do this only if your budget allows you to. Don’t try to do it this way if you are just too lazy to make you own lunch and/or can’t really afford to eat the food at your school.
7. Study, Play and Work-time
The final part of accomplishing your goal of getting a college degree in 4 years is to separate your study, play and work-time. It is necessary to have all three not just to get through college but to also keep your sanity. When you first receive your class schedule before the semester begins, it is best to make out a game plan for each day of each week during every semester. You will want to have a good balance of the three so that you get a good amount of work time to make some cash, enough study time to get your school work done and a nice chunk of free time to do whatever it is your heart desires. I have had a good balance of these three over my four years and it has made things a whole lot easier. With a good balance, it will make your life a lot easier too.
A college career is not an easy one, but nothing worth doing ever is easy. Another thing that is important in getting your college degree is to have a good support system around you. It is always nice to know that even though you are doing this for yourself, there are other people around who will be very proud of what you have been able to accomplish. It’s when you are going through your toughest times in college that these people will be most effective in helping you get through it and keep pushing forward. The college road is not an easy one to go down, but once you reach your destination, it is then that you will know just how worth it everything was.