Top 3 Choices I Would Make If I Were a College Student Today

Z. Kelly Queijo, founder Smart College Visit
January 10, 2012 

As someone building a business that serves college-bound teens and their families, I'm constantly assessing life today as a college student versus when I was a student in the 70's and 80's. Back then, the path seemed pretty clear — go to college to improve your job prospects and create a better future for yourself. Today, with the cost of a college education and unemployment rates both at an all-time high, there's a lot more to factor in when it comes to creating that "better future."

Work or intern while in college (pic circa 1975)Since I have the luxury of hindsight, I can pinpoint steps I could have taken that would have been really smart choices to make during my college years.

If I were entering college as a freshman today, here are the top 3 things I would do differently:

  1. Get an Internship Beginning Freshman Year
    There's no need to wait until the junior or senior year to get an internship. You can start building relationships and learning how to work in a professional environment as early as freshman year and what you learn, and experience, will likely influence your choices and opportunities as you move forward defining your future.
  2. Go Abroad 
    Aside from family or personal travel, you'll find college and university study abroad programs, international internships, humanitarian relief programs, and international student exchange are really good options for making global travel a reality. Explore any or all of these options. Your college years are often the most flexible when it comes to how you spend your time. Make it all worthwhile. 
  3. Pay for Part or All of My College Education (In other words: Own It)
    While I did pay for part of my college education, I did so toward the end of my college years. What I came to realize was how much more I valued my education when I was paying for it than when my parents were picking up the bill. In fact, it was a turning point for me as a student. I realized that if I was not getting the full value my education offered me then I was wasting my money and that did not sit well with me. I became a better student once I had a vested financial interest in my future. 

Now, I know that not everyone who reads this is going to feel that paying for college on your own is the only way to value one's education. I agree. Perhaps the emphasis I should make is to focus on "ownership" — that anyone attending college needs to own his or her education — you need to:  claim it, manage it, and make it work for you.

For some, paying for college is the way to make that happen, for others it's seizing opportunities such as internships and study abroad, for others it's even down to selecting courses as the way to lay claim to an education.

 What have you done, or will you do, to own your college education?

Plane_bluebackCollege Visit Tour Tip: When visiting campus, ask questions about internship opportunities and study abroad programs. For a list of questions about about study abroad, see The Top 10 Questions to ask about Study Abroad Programs.