No Bullshit College Tips: What I Wish I Had Told My High School Students

With talk of a bursting education bubble* and the ongoing protests about education in Chile, I’ve been thinking of the advice I wish I had received before applying to college, what I wish I had known going in. It’s an open secret that I miss teaching, that talking with teenagers about health for two years was a dream job. I wish I had had more time with them, especially to talk about college.

Dreamboat young Matt Damon explains.

You might not have to go to college.

I know, you’ve been told your whole life that college is the most important thing ever. Take some time to think long and hard about what you want to do. Do you want to work with your hands, be an artist, computer programmer, entrepreneur? You can learn those things without paying $12,804- $32,184 a year.

If you don’t have money (you probably don’t), go for free.

Avoid debt as much as possible. Go for free. Or as close to free as possible. Go to a state school, get a scholarship, start saving money now. Ask your family if they’ve been saving for your education.

If you have money, go somewhere known.

College is about who you’re meeting – the professors and students who will help you get a job later. Don’t go somewhere completely unknown. You’ll spend your job interviews legitimizing your school and convincing people that it’s a real place.

If you have family abroad, go to school abroad. 

It’s not only less expensive, but the language skills you’ll gain will help you get in the door. Then you can explain your amazing, high-quality, low-price experience. If you want to work internationally, or with international populations, going to school abroad is an option to look into.

Get a job.

Something related to what you want to do after graduation. Anything that will earn you some money, experience, something to put on your resume. Work every summer, whether at a camp or at your family’s business. Save the money you earn – pretend it’s an unpaid internship. Learn something useful: another language, how to talk to people who are upset, basic accounting, Office programs. Not having any work experience when you leave college is the best way to stay jobless for months, years. Why go into debt if you’re just going to sit on the couch after graduation?

Focus on skills.

The college degree is the new high school degree, and a Masters is the new BA. Your fancy piece of paper doesn’t automatically get you a good job. You can learn about other people’s opinions by going to the library and attending free lectures. Learn how to do things, and people will hire you to do them. Few jobs involve bloviating or pontificating. If you want to do that, get a soapbox, start a band, get a blog.

You’re in college to learn things you can’t anywhere else. Make it a worthwhile.


*This morning I was explaining how expensive US education is, how we are all in debt. The person I was talking with said: “We usually have some extra soup left over at the end of the day. I’ll save some for you so you can bring it home.”


11 thoughts on “No Bullshit College Tips: What I Wish I Had Told My High School Students

  1. i love this thought. will definitely continue to pass this along to all the awesome younger generations i teach and reach at the hospital. miss your face.

  2. Great post! I home school my kids and I have been telling them the same for years. I am passing this on to them so they see there are others out there who believe the same.

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  4. By the way, I just reblogged this post! Thanks again 🙂

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