If you know a college student, share this with them right now. They’ll probably thank you in a few years.
If you’re in college, this is not a drill. Especially, if you’re a senior. These are the secrets no one is telling you.
Everyone you know over the age of 30 already knows these things, but it’s a secret.
Christian Advice for College Students
1. Pretend You Already Have Your Degree
Seriously, pretend you’re holding that piece of paper in your hands. Now what? Get specific about what you will do, then start doing it…right right now. This was the biggest mistake I made during my senior year. I thought something magical would happen to me when I was handed my degree. This was not the case. This is also a good exercise to do before you start grad school. Here’s your $130,000 piece of paper, now what?
2. Get married. Be single. Or date like crazy.
The hard truth that no one is going to tell is that it’s 100x harder to find a life partner after graduation.
If you’ve found the one – get married right after graduation. Don’t wait! Have a May, June, or July wedding at the absolute latest. Things will only get more challenging the further away you get from graduation.
If you’re dating someone you’re not serious about – break up and be single or be proactive about dating people you’re interested in. It’s now or never. Don’t squander your senior year focused on the wrong things. You will regret it. Keep your eyes open.
If you want to be single – be single! Enjoy everything your senior year has to offer.
If you want to get married – date like crazy. Be proactive. You’ll never have a captive audience like this for the rest of your life.
3. Do This With Your Favorite Professors
One of the best things I did before I graduated was taking several of my favorite college professor’s and their spouses out to dinner as a way to thank them for making an impact on my life. I still remember where we ate and the conversations we had. Share your future plans with them, and invite them to give you wisdom and advice. Taking time to do this is an investment that will pay back dividends down the road. Make this a top priority in your final months of college. Transition some of your favorite professors into real life friends, not just Facebook friends. It will be one of the best things you will do.
4. Talk to 3 People Who Are Already Doing the Job You Want to Do
What no one will tell you is that your senior year is about networking, not studying. People are ten times more likely to help a college student than a college graduate. You should send an email, make a phone call, or show up in person. Be bold. Be genuine. Tell them you’re a college senior, and that you’re interested in getting their advice. Be specific. Ask them if you can schedule a phone call to talk with them or if you can meet them at their workplace for 30-60 minutes. The worst thing they can do is say no. If that’s the case, move on to someone else. But, the reality is that most people would love to help you. The information you will get from doing this will be pure gold. Listen very closely to what they have to say. They know more than you and it might just save you a lot of time, money, energy, and heartache. Listen close to what they tell you.
The crazy thing is that almost all college students will go into $50,000+ worth of debt that they’ll spend 30 years paying off, before they’ll spend a few minutes reaching out to get advice from someone who is already doing the job they want to do someday. And, they’ll come up with every excuse in the book why they can’t do it. Crazy, right? If you do this now, it will change your life. Repeat. If you do this now, it will change your life.
5. Prepare for Necessary Endings
When college is over, it needs to end, so you can make room for what’s next. The fantasy is that you might hang around campus another year, continue to be best friends with all your roommates, and stay on a first name basis with all your favorite professors. That fantasy needs to die right now. College friends will always have a special place in your heart. They’ll always be life long friends. And, you’ll always be able to pick up right where you left off with most of them.
But, after graduation can be messy. Most people end up getting their feelings hurt after college because everyone has different expectations on what friendship looks like after graduation. My best wisdom is to avoid any friendship drama after graduation like the plague. There’s an 80’s rock song by 38 Special called ‘Hold On Loosely’. These are great words to live by. Hold on loosely to all your friendships. The ones that are good will survive, the ones that need to end will die a natural death, and you’ll always have room for new ones. I never thought it would be possible, but I made my best friends in life after college.
And, even 20 years later, I still have dreams that I’m going back to college. When this happens, I wake up, acknowledge that college was an awesome time in my life, then continue moving forward with where I’m currently at. Always live in the present. Not the past.
6. Be Realistic About Your Degree
Don’t get stuck in fantasy land. I thought because I had a degree. in Communications and a minor in Business, that I was magically going to land a job that paid $100,000 a year right away. I have no idea why, other than that was what I thought was “just supposed to happen” after college. That was a fantasy. Be realistic about which degree you’re getting and what your next plans should be. There’s 3 types of college degrees:
- A degree that requires more schooling (think pre-med, pre-law)
- A degree that means you can get a job after graduation in your field of study (think nursing, education, plumbing, electrical engineering)
- A degree that requires more planning (think history, art, communication)
If you’re getting Degree #1, you should have already decided where you’ll be continuing your education. If you haven’t yet, get moving.
If you’re getting Degree #2, you should be networking and applying for jobs all throughout your senior year, not after graduation. Take advantage of your status as a college student to get help networking and finding a job.
If you’re getting Degree #3, listen up…what no one is telling you right now is that you’re a lamb being led to the slaughter. I know that sounds harsh, but it’s true. You can wake up now, or wake up later. Stop what you’re doing right now and call your parents to get their advice. If you don’t have parents, find someone who is 40+ years old, who you respect, and get their advice.
BONUS: Don’t fall into the trap of going to grad school and adding a pile of student loan debt to your plate just to put off the inevitable reality that you’re going to have to get a job.
I was graduating with Degree #3, and I didn’t get serious until a month before graduation when I attended a job fair and realized that working at Applebee’s was the best option for someone who failed to actually plan ahead. I decided to go to grad school for a Master’s in Communication. I added $50k to my debt load and 2 years later was still in the same place. All I did was delay reality. Don’t make the mistake I made.
7. Have a Lot of Fun
Your senior year should be fun. If it’s not, you’re doing it wrong. The memories I made my senior year of college have sustained me over the past 20 years. I have fond memories of hilarious pranks, traveling with friends, spending two weeks making a student film, all the senior events, and lots of laughs. If you have an opportunity to have fun with friends in college…do it. All the friends I have who used the “I can’t, I have to study tonight” as an excuse not to hang out, but now they tell me that was a BIG mistake. Don’t be that guy or girl. NOW is the time to enjoy this magical season of your life. Of course, you won’t know it’s magical until after you leave. Have fun now.
8. Celebrate Your Graduation
Don’t be shy about celebrating your graduation. You should have a graduation party and invite as many friends and family as possible. Don’t wait for someone else to organize it for you. It’s up to YOU. Don’t be shy. People will want to celebrate your achievement with you. And, the little bit of money you will receive at your graduation party will come in handy as you get ready to start the next phase of your life. This is the time to have a big party. Just do it.
What no one tells you is that your high school graduation was really a party for your parents. Strangers come to give you money to help you leave home. No one cares about you. We’re friends with your parents. It’s okay. You’ll understand someday. Now, college graduation IS about you. That’s when people start to care. That’s when the people who really like you will show up.
9. Take FPU After You Graduate. America Loves a Financially Dumb College Graduate Because You Make Them Rich.
Let’s be honest. You won’t do this while you’re in college. But, after you graduate, when the financial realities of life hit you in the face, and when you finally understand that credit card debt and student loan debt sucks, and you have your first pity party that no one told you how hard things would be…take a moment to breath. Instead of ranting on Facebook or blaming your parents, turn to Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University (FPU). It’s a 13-week program offered nationwide. You’ll learn everything you need to know about having success with your finances and navigating the world of credit, debt, budgeting, planning for emergencies, car insurance, health insurance, real estate, saving, and investing. Save this URL for when that ‘moment’ happens after graduation (yes this moment will happen to you, because it happens to everyone): https://www.daveramsey.com/fpu. A lot of churches and financial advisors host weekly FPU groups in the evenings.
Note: This is not a trackable link, and I receive no incentive for promoting Dave Ramsey’s FPU. I had over $70,000 of debt after I graduated, and was miserable. My aunt and uncle suggested I take Financial Peace University, and after I did my entire life changed. I went from major debt, to paying off my debt, to becoming financially independent within in a few years. My only regret is not taking this course sooner.
Here’s what NO ONE else will tell you: most people in America love a financially dumb college graduate, because you help make everyone else rich when you:
- make minimum payments on your credit cards
- buy $19 beers at the concert
- stay distracted with TikTok
- buy a brand new car with a $400/month payment for 8 years
- put your student loans in forbearance while the interest piles up
- go back to school to spend $50,000 on another diploma
- put $350 for concert tickets on your credit card
- buy a house when you’re 23
- buy a $20k diamond ring for your fiancé on credit
- stay glued to your phone
Yep. America really does love dumb college grads, because you’re making everyone else money. Don’t be dumb. You’ll understand this more when you’re 35.
BONUS SECRETS NO ONE WILL TELL YOU
1. Become friends with your parents after you graduate.
2. Travel abroad if you have the opportunity now, not later. For 20 years, I’ve regretted not going on my college’s European tour.
3. Don’t be the person who drops out of college with two months to go. Finish your degree no matter what.
4. If you haven’t already, stop using your school email address. You can’t use it after you graduate. Start using a Gmail address with your name, like email@example.com. Use your real name. Stop using weird email addresses like firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.
5. Update your Facebook profile photo to be a professional looking picture of your face making eye contact with the camera. And, update your cover photo, too. Trust me. Facebook is the first place potential employers usually look. And, nothing screams “don’t hire me” like a profile photo of a beer can.
6. Find a mentor. Preferably someone 10-20 years older. Someone young enough to understand how things work today, but old enough to know what they’re doing. They can help you navigate through the challenges that await you. And, you don’t say “Hey, will you be my mentor?” That’s weird and people will be scared away. What you DO say is, “Can I take you to lunch sometime next week? I’d love to get your advice on life stuff.” If it goes well, follow up again in a month for another lunch. Do this for a few months. It will probably change your life for the better.
7. Be humble. There’s nothing more satisfying to a lot of people than seeing a cocky college grad get body slammed by life. Ask for help. Admit you don’t know what you’re doing. Ask lots of questions. The people who ask the questions are the ones who become successful.
8. There’s nothing wrong with working at Applebee’s. I had to work a lot of non-glamorous jobs on my way to where I am today. Always be kind to service workers. Tip them well. They’re working hard to make life work, and many are pursuing goals and dreams. Your job is not your identity. Remember that.
9. Watch the movie ‘Into The Wild‘ before you graduate. Don’t spend your whole life trying to fit into a mold that society has created for you. Get out and explore the world. There’s real beauty out there to be discovered. Set forth on your adventure.
Dear College Student,
Congrats! You’re almost finished with college.
Guess what…you’re probably going to hit rock bottom after graduation. I know I did.
I graduated college in 2004. I’ve always wished I could get in a time machine and go back to tell myself the above advice. I can’t do that, so sharing it with you is the next best thing…
One year after I graduated, I hit rock bottom. I had no idea how hard thing would be after college. I lost my girlfriend, and I was only making $13,000 a year. When things were at their worst, I spent several hours crying in my tiny studio apartment. I literally stood on top of my Bible and said, “God I need your help. I’m literally standing on your promises. Please help me Lord.” I prayed like I’ve never prayed before. I was completely broken. I think that’s what needed to happen for me to humble myself. I had to learn the hard way. This was my new beginning.
After that, things began to slowly get better. Every year new doors would open, new friends would come into my life, and ultimately I accomplished my dream of building my own business thanks in part to wisdom I learned at Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University and in his book Entreleadership. It is possible!
But, I’ve always wondered one thing…
Why didn’t anyone tell me about this in college?
Maybe because I never asked? I honestly have no idea why.
The reality is that no one is going to tell you these things. I think it’s easier for people to just let you have fun and then figure out the hard stuff later.
But, I don’t think it has to be like that. I want you to be wise. These college years are valuable…don’t waste them.
Regent University, Class of 2004