Avoiding the pitfalls of college life

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Avoid getting trapped in the college student stereotypes and come out a better person for it
Posted Thursday, March 29, 2007 - 12:00am

For many of us, finally moving out on our own for the first time can be exciting. All the rules you had to live by while at home can be tossed out the window. Even though many students have families that live close, the freedom to be able to make decisions for yourself is nice. You can finally show your parents that you are as smart as you have been trying to tell them. Unfortunately, we are not always right and some of the decisions we make when we are given our independence come back and bite us in the butt. Hopefully the majority of them can be fixed without much of a problem. Some of the inconsequential decisions that are overlooked can have serious consequences later in life.

In talking to several students I was shocked to realize how many take out loans to buy crap. If it isn't necessary for your survival or well being it can probably be classified as crap. I know of a couple of students who took out loans so they could put new stereo systems in their cars. Student loans are relatively easy to get and since you generally have the option of not starting payments until you are finished with your education they are pretty attractive. The interest is also relatively low. I realize that for some students, loans are the only alternative if they want to graduate but there is almost always a way to avoid it. Even if it takes an extra year to finish school, it is better than finishing with a huge amount of debt. Contrary to what your expectations may be, the chances of landing a job right out of school that enables you to earn a six-figure income are nearly nonexistent. The younger you are when you learn to spend money on assets rather than liabilities the better off you will be. It will never matter how much money you make, it matters how much you are able to save and invest.

It may seem really important to buy a new car right now but the newness usually wears off about the time you have to make the first payment. It will feel much better to graduate without any debt and then buy yourself a new car that you can afford. If you do not have a car you have a pretty good excuse for not being able to run errands for all your roommates. I use a car as an example but it applies to anything that is not a necessity. If you start your college career borrowing money the trend is likely to continue after you graduate. Do not fall into the trap of thinking that things will be different in the future. You have probably heard the saying that old habits die hard. Do not get in the habit of wasting your money.

I do not know how many of you who read this have ever heard of the freshman 15, but for those of you who have it may be closer to the freshman 20 or 30. College students are notorious for gaining weight as soon as they leave home. For some it may not hurt but for the majority an additional fifteen pounds is a bad thing. Get in the habit of being conscious of your health. The same idea about making habits applies here. If you have bad habits they are pretty hard to change. Have you ever noticed that most bad habits are easy to get into but good habits can be a pain in the butt to develop? If you make your health a priority, your life is likely to be more meaningful. Ask anyone who routinely works out and is mindful of the food they eat and they will tell you that they feel much better. You have more energy throughout the day and in general are happier. It has been proven that exercise makes people happier. It not only helps you physically, but mentally and emotionally as well. Take advantage of the BDAC. If you don't like working out in front of people go hiking in the hills. This is another one of those things that will either affect you thirty years down the road.

If a diploma is the only thing you leave with after years of studying you will likely have a lot of catching up to do in life. Use the time spent in college to your advantage. If you do, you will be that much further ahead of your competition.

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