Regret is a part of life. Unfortunately, it’s also a part of the post-college experience for many grads looking back on their college years. The good news? By learning about some of the most common regrets expressed by former college students now, you can take proactive steps to avoid ending up with the same laments. To that end, we’re counting down five top regrets experienced by college grads.
1. Not taking enough stimulating classes
It’s easy to lose track of the big picture in college. After all, you’re finally out on your own with near-endless ways to spend your time. It’s hardly a surprise that you’re inclined to take less-than-challenging classes to leave more time for everything from sleeping in to partying. Unfortunately, this is a short-sighted outlook with potentially long-term consequences.
Choosing a class because of its reputation as a “gut” or because it’s offered in the afternoon as opposed to in the morning may seem like the an easy thing to do, but is it the best thing to do? Instead, keep your eye on the prize — your own bright future! — by choosing classes because they are of interest to you and/or because they’re connected to your future career.
Think of it this way: After graduation, you’ll never regret having to get up at 8AM to make it to your 9AM class your sophomore year of college, but you will regret being eliminated from consideration for a job because you don’t have the right academic credentials.
2. Not traveling abroad
You might think college life is demanding, but as soon as you graduate and get a job, your life gets a whole lot more crowded with responsibilities. In college, however, there are not only plentiful study abroad opportunities, but they are designed to seamlessly integrate within a semester or academic year.
From personal enrichment to second language fluency to the global perspective sought after by today’s employers, international study has many rewards. And there’s no better time to start cashing in on them than during college.
3. Poor money management
College students aren’t exactly known for their financial prudence. Between late-night beer and pizza to easy access to credit, the temptation to spend — particularly for students who’ve until now been financially dependent on their parents — is strong. But cavalier spending in college can lead to dire outcomes. In fact, a staggering 77 percent of college grads under the age of 40 regret failing to adequately plan for student loan debt management, according to a study conducted by Citizens Financial Group as reported by Time.
While students can take steps to minimize their loan debt by budgeting during their college days, applying for scholarships, and only borrowing when absolutely necessary, another group of people can play an equally if not more important in preparing students for the realities of debt: Parents. Open discussions about the cost of college and how families plan to pay for it can help ensure that students fully understand the implications of carrying student loan debt.
4. Opting out of internships
If you’re like many students, you may already feel stretched thin by your course load. However, when it comes to landing the job of your dreams, it may take more than a great class schedule. With employers increasingly prioritizing real-world skills, internships have not only become differentiating factors on a resume, but can also be an invaluable networking tool. Your university career office to learn more about available jobs and summer internships. Some may require your services just a few hours a week while yielding exponential payoffs.
Need more proof to hop on the internship train? According to research from the New York Federal Reserve, candidates with work experience in their industries were 14 percent more likely to get interviews than their non-working counterparts. The research further concluded that work experience outweighed everything from grades to majors when it came to landing jobs.
The old adage insists that “a penny saved is a penny earned.” Unfortunately, this can be easier said than done particularly for students and entry-level employees who may not yet be raking in the big bucks. But there’s also a saying that goes, “Why put off for tomorrow what you can do today?” And the truth is that regardless of the amount you earn, you can and should be thinking about retirement. Let’s count down four strategies aimed at turning today’s pennies into tomorrow’s savings.
1. Have a Financial Plan
Just because retirement is still 20,30 or even 40 years into the future doesn’t mean you can’t have a plan in place aimed at helping you reach your goals along the way. The first step in planning for the future is having a plan in the first place.
Begin by considering both your immediate and long-term financial goals. Be as thorough as possible, including everything from daily needs like groceries and commuting costs to more significant objectives, such as home ownership. Write these things down. Not only does research indicate that writing down your goals can help you reach them, but this list will become a touchpoint over the years.
After you’ve prepared your financial goals, your next step is to determine a “big picture” comprehensive budget to determine what it will take to get you there. Luckily, a number of free online resources exist to help you with this part of the process. Sites like Voya Financial’s Home Budget & Savings Calculator are a great way to see where your money is going and how to start saving.
2. Start Saving
Saving money is a habit. The sooner your start, the sooner it will become something you don’t even have to think about. Not to mention that you can’t miss what you never had to begin with, which is why workplace retirement savings plans — such as 401(k)s and Roth IRAs — which be set up to auto-deduct a preset amount from your paycheck, can be an invaluable financial jumpstart. Not only are these funds tax-deferrable, but many employers will also match your contribution.
By saving early, you can maximize what you’ll have in the long run. Consider a scenario shared by Bankrate revealing the difference between saving $2,000 a year beginning at age 35 and the same amount beginning 10 years earlier at age 25. With the former setup (assuming 8 percent earnings), you’ll reach the age of retirement with approximately $245,000. This may sound okay…until you consider that the 25-year-old saver would have racked up $560,000 — more than twice that of the 35-year-old saver.
The best part of starting to save now? Once you’ve got everything set up, all you have to do is kick back and watch your nest egg grow. And even if you can only spare a small amount now, you can adjust how much is being deducted as your financial situation improves.
3. Manage Your Debt
When it comes to four-letter words, this one is enough to strike fear in the heart of any financial planner: debt. Unfortunately, failure to understand the impact of debt — from student loans to credit card debt — from the onset can result in an unpleasant snowball effect. While completely avoiding debt may be an unrealistic expectation, having a plan to pay down your debt can prevent it from escalating. Experts suggest building paying off loans into your budget calculations, starting by tackling debt with the highest interest rates first.
One caveat? While your instinct may be to throw everything you’ve got at your debt toward a “clean slate,” delaying retirement contributions while failing to establishment a critical “rainy day” fund can be a slippery slope. Why? Because saving for retirement doesn’t necessarily get easier as you get older due to the accumulation of new financial responsibilities throughout life. In many cases, maxing our your retirement contributions while establishing a less aggressive loan repayment plan can lead to better financial outcomes.
Thomas Edison famously declared genius to be “one percent inspiration and ninety-percent perspiration.” And it’s true: Even the world’s most celebrated minds didn’t have easy or obvious paths. The fact is that no matter how smart you are, true success requires many things, including hard work and perseverance. Let’s take a closer look at five famous scientists who set inspiring examples during their lifetimes.
1. Writer’s Block: Charles Darwin
Charles Darwin took a staggering 17 years to pen his magnus opus, “On the Origin of Species.” One thing that helped him stay the course during that time span? He established and stuck to a routine. While he set plenty of time aside for writing, he also designated time for other pursuits — including exercise, spending time with his family and dog, and gardening. In fact, according to an article on Darwin’s schedule in The Guardian, Darwin put “domestic comfort” above all else while writing.
Another thing that kept Darwin on track? An emotional connection with his subject matter. He once said, “It is interesting to contemplate an entangled bank, clothed with many plants of many kinds. With birds singing on the bushes, with various insects flitting about, and with worms crawling through the damp earth, and to reflect that these elaborately constructed forms, so different from each other, and dependent on each other in so complex a manner, have all been produced by laws acting around us.”
Your takeaway? Writing at a breakneck pace may not be as fruitful as you think. Darwin himself described the writing process as “very hard and slowly at every sentence,” but by prioritizing his personal life and maintaining a realistic schedule, he ended up writing the seminal book on evolution.
2. Applying a Theory: Isaac Newton
Isaac Newton is among the 17th century’s most influential scientists, and his groundbreaking work is now the foundation for modern physics. Many experts posit that his true genius lay not in the theories themselves, but in how Newton applied them to the universe at large. And while he may not have come up with the concept of gravity after an apple fell on his head, as the legend insists, he did doggedly attack the theory of gravity, coming at it with great determination from every possible angle.
Of his process Newton once said, “I was like a boy playing on the sea-shore, and diverting myself now and then finding a smoother pebble or a prettier shell than ordinary, whilst the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before me.”
In other words, being willing and open to all possibilities can help you be more original and innovative when proposing and applying theories.
3. For Paving a Path: Marie Curie
There will be times in your life when people tell you that you can’t or won’t accomplish something. When they do, keep Marie Curie in mind. A pioneer in the field of radioactivity, she was not only the first woman to receive a Nobel Prize, but was also the only person to receive the award twice and in two different sciences! She was also the first female professor at the University of Paris — all at a time when the contributions of women were largely devalued.
Curie herself once said, “One never notices what has been done; one can only see what remains to be done.”
We can think of no better philosophy for forging your way — both during your degree and for life in general — than this one.
4. For Being Open to Learning: Leonardo Da Vinci
The question isn’t what Leonardo Da Vinci did. It’s more what he didn’t do. From architect and anatomist to sculptor and scientist, Da Vinci is perhaps most famous for his mysterious painting of the Mona Lisa. But his discoveries about human anatomy were also huge, and approximately 200 years ahead of their time. Da Vinci also sketched concepts for everything from helicopters to plate tectonics with a list of inventions including musical instruments, crank mechanisms, hydraulic pumps, and even a steam cannon.
The lesson for the rest of us? Don’t limit yourself. Be open to learning and be open-minded while you’re at it. Da Vinci himself once said, “The greatest deception men suffer is from their own opinions.”
Hardly a day goes by without another report of soaring student debt or rising tuition fees. And if a university education wasn’t already expensive, many students are finding that an undergraduate degree isn’t enough. But graduate school isn’t cheap (between $10-25K in the US and about £8K in the UK per year) and even when a master’s will increase a student’s employability or improve their potential salary, taking out more student loans or finding the cash to pay for another two to five years of schooling are hardly pleasant prospects. Fortunately, there are ways to avoid further debt or abject poverty during your graduate degree. Here are five ways to fund your master’s degree.
If you thought that scholarships and grants were only for undergraduates, think again. There are numerous scholarships aimed at funding post-graduate studies – you just need to know where to look. If you’re already enrolled in a program, visit your school’s financial aid department and ask for information on scholarships specific to your course or department. It should go without saying, but the internet is your friend when it comes to graduate funding. Sites like gograd.org,thescholarshiphub.org.uk, and scholarship-searcg.org.uk let students search for funding based on degree level, course, and even specific individual qualifications like gender or military service. Minority students should check the McNair Scholars Program.
2. Research Grants
Grants are a bit more specialized than scholarships and may take a bit more effort, but they have the added benefit of counting towards career development, especially if you plan on going into an academic or research career. Again, start with your institution and look for research or project grants aimed at your degree. Many departments have grant funding for graduate students to complete specialized training, travel for research, or purchase necessary supplies or equipment. Ask your professors or advisors – they may already have (or may be applying) for funding and will be seeking research assistants. Use the internet to find subject-based grants: health science graduates should visit the National Institute of Health’s funding site, while students perusing master’s in the humanities or social sciences can use h-net.org.
3. Study Abroad
Studying abroad is often viewed as expensive, but for grad students, it can be a smart, economical choice. While students in the UK and the US can expect to pay thousands of pounds or dollars a year for graduate studies, many countries offer master’s degrees at little to no cost for both domestic and international students. Scandinavia and western Europe are prime destinations for thrifty grad students – tuition is free in Norway, Sweden, and Finland, while students pay nominal fees in Germany, France, and Spain. Outside Europe, look to Singapore, Brazil, Mexico, and South Africa for low-cost tuition as well as a low cost of living.
4. Assistantships and Fellowships
One often overlooked way of funding your graduate studies is through an assistantship or fellowship. Many universities offer reduced or free tuition to grad students who agree to perform research or teaching assistant duties during their studies. While this will increase your responsibilities during your studies, teaching or assisting with research can be incredibly valuable once you’ve completed your degree. Before applying for graduate school, take some time to research the assistantship opportunities at your top choices and don’t forget to consider some smaller, less well-known programs where competition for positions might be less rigorous but the quality of scholarship is just as prestigious.
If you’ve already been accepted to graduate school, we’ve got good news for you: your writing skills were strong enough to get your application past the admissions committee. But this doesn’t mean you can just kick back and coast on what worked during your undergraduate studies. Not only will more be expected of you during your pursuit of an advanced degree, but there’s also likely to be a thesis in your future. The takeaway? The time is now to sharpen up your writing skills. Let’s count down six tips aimed at ensuring that your writing is on point in graduate school.
1. Convey Your Expertise
Graduate students are training to be experts in their field. This expertise should be exemplified by your writing. Your language should be direct, confident and authoritative in order to foster a sense of trust with your readers.
Other ways to assemble a cogent argument? Avoid first person tense whenever possible; employ transition words and phrases; and pay attention to sentence structure. Two true hallmarks of graduate level writing? Clarity and control.
2. Make Writing Routine
We’ve all heard the expression “practice makes perfect.” This is no more true than when it comes to graduate level writing. Making time to write regularly will not only help you develop critical thinking and writing skills, but can also be an invaluable confidence booster.
Establishing a writing routine is particularly beneficial when it comes to working on your thesis. Many graduate students wait too long to start writing and end up rushing through the process. This can lead to everything from an underdeveloped argument to lack of proper formatting. Avoid this pitfall by setting a schedule for writing as you go…and by committing to stick with it.
3. Know Your Reader
Any piece of writing should keep one overarching question in mind: Who is the audience and why are they reading your writing? In addition to clearly presenting your ideas, keep in mind that your thesis is an original contribution to your particular discipline. Make sure your reader knows what to expect by including “signposts” — such as a table of contents, abstract, introductory paragraphs, etc. — along the way to help guide your reader. Each sentence should relate in some way to your overall argument.
4. Seek Feedback
While graduate level writing is largely an individual effort, there’s plenty of help to be found if you know where to look. For starters, your advisor can be an amazing resource when it comes to “big picture” issues, such as selecting a topic and refining your thesis. In addition to helping identify your paper’s strengths, your advisor can also help suss out your weaknesses thereby preventing you from venturing too far in the wrong direction.
Your fellow grad students, meanwhile, can offer editing and proofreading assistance. And while finding someone in your field can be particularly useful — especially if you’re writing about a complex or scientific subject — friends and family members can also offer a helpful second (or third or fourth) pair of eyes.
5. Embrace the Revision Process
No piece of writing gets it perfect the first time. In fact, research and writing go hand in hand with revision, but many writers still get tripped up by setting impossible expectations for themselves. The best way to avoid this trap? Make revision part of your mindset.
Also, keep in mind that revision is much more than merely proofreading for mistakes. Rather, it’s an act of complete “re-seeing.” While this often involves expanding on key concepts, it sometimes means letting go of good material if it doesn’t make an essential contribution to your writing. We can all learn from William Faulkner, who once spoke of the need to, “Kill all your darlings.”