The Game of College | How to get the most out of college while spending the least amount

Pick a college and major that suits you

In a previous post I wrote about The Only Three Reasons A Person Should Go To College to help guide people who were searching for whether or not they should go to college.  I’m going to elaborate even more on that post here for those that have decided that they think college is for them.

For many people, deciding whether or not to go to college is going to be one of the biggest financial decisions of their life, even more than buying a house.  This single decision can be a huge factor in how much money a person makes and the overall life they live, so it’s best for people to understand how to get the most out of college.

The Undecided

If you’re undecided in what you want to do as a career or how you want to make money after graduating college, then it’s best for you to use college as a discovery process.  As you’re taking your general education classes look for the classes that you enjoy learning the subjects.  Once you find one or two, see what type of majors available around that subject.  If you like a subject that chances are that you’re going to like studying that subject and as a result you’ll get good grades.  Your grades will then work for you later when you go to get favor with the faculty, internships, and jobs.

If you’re paying for your own college, or if you have limited money to go to college, it’s best to start out at a community college.  There are huge advantages to going to a community college if you play the game right.  Getting great grades (3.8+) will get you access to almost any school you want to go to, especially if you’ve picked a less impacted major.  Great grades will also get you grants and scholarships to go to schools better than you might be able to afford otherwise.  For example, you may have budget for a state school, but be able to go to an exclusive private school with additional grants and scholarships.  This is exactly what I did – used my 4.0 my freshman year to leverage acceptance and nearly full tuition at Pepperdine University.

By choosing a subject that you enjoy learning and that you can excel at you will gain favor with the faculty in that division.  This can be huge in opening up the best internships, scholarships, and grants.  The faculty will also be willing to write stellar recommendation letters for you when you need them.  Don’t be afraid to get the most out of the faculty.  That’s what they are there for.

The Entrepreneur

If you know you want to run businesses to make a living, then there is still a ton of value to be received by going to college.  First off, you’ll want to focus on Business Administration or Economics with an emphasis on Entrepreneurship.    Choose a school that has a strong entrepreneurship culture, academics, and a strong alumni network.  Your goal at college is two pronged – to learn how successful businesses succeed and to make as many relationships as possible.

Dive into the entrepreneurial programs head first and get the most that you can out of them.  Seek professors and mentors that have built businesses before and can show you what to do and more importantly, what not to do.  Join social organizations, like a fraternity, or other clubs.  Trust me, fraternities are a great place to learn leadership, make great friends, and have lifetime connections and bonds with people.  Ignore the stigma you see in the movie and choose a fraternity that has guys you can see hanging out with; this is more important than the status of the fraternity on campus.

When choosing a college aim as high as you can.  Find schools where the social elite send their kids and see if these schools are right for you.  While I never made friends with someone because of how much money their family had, it does help to have friends with access to amazing resources and people.  Also, as an entrepreneur you’ll find that you’re going to have similar goals as your fellow classmates at these schools.  Get to know the head of the business and entrepreneur programs as well as the people that run the alumni office as they can help introduce you to alumni that have been successful in business and can open doors for you.  Don’t forget to thank your school by giving back to them after your graduate as there will be eager students just like you looking for help.

Your goal is to come out of college with little or no debt, or even to have started a business that makes you money while you’re in college.  Comment below if you’re interested in finding out how.

The Decided

If you’re going into college and you know exactly what you want to do when you get out, then your goal is to dominate the classes in your major and get the best mentors and internships in your field.  Use your love for that subject to win over the faculty and get in their good graces.  Like I said above, you’re going to need them for referral letters, introductions and more.

Like the entrepreneur, make sure you are making connections in your field.  College connections can help you down the road, especially early on in your career.  If you’re field is very technical, then it’s my advice to work on being just as great working with people as your are technical.  This will help you move up the ranks faster when you get a job.

When choosing a college to graduate from, look for the ones that are highly rated in your field.  This doesn’t always equate to the most prestigious school overall.  Sometimes state schools can have great specialization which makes their programs outrank higher tier schools.  Find out where the top companies hire from, especially if there’s a company that you want to work for.  One way to help get college paid for is to find an internship at the company and kick ass while you’re there.

In all instances, you should not choose a college that’s going to put you into huge financial debt when you get out.  Think $10k or less in debt.  Instead, focus on ways to get the most education with the resources that you have.  Leverage community college if you have to, even if it’s just for one year to establish that you can perform in college.  This is especially true if you don’t have great grades coming out of high school.

Enjoy college while you’re there!  Meet as many people from as many cultures and backgrounds as you can!  Focus on gaining experiences that will last a lifetime.