Jim has covered the fundamentals and offered great tips on what to do before you start working  after college. I figured I would chime in with my thoughts on how college students can get ahead of their peers by the time graduation day rolls around.
This is not textbook theory; I have used these tips myself. These are also not tips that only college students can use, just ideas for how to get ahead of the pack. Finally, you can use this advice at any time in your college career, from 1st year to 4th year (or even 6th! nothing wrong with switching majors).
1. Volunteer in the summer
While I couldn’t volunteer in the summer, because I need to work to save up money, but volunteering at a job in your field can lead to a paid position down the road. If you have your tuition costs subsidized (by scholarship or family), take advantage of it by volunteering for a job in your field.
If you’re not good at it or you find you hate it, you know what job you shouldn’t apply for after college! Either way you gain experience and have more than textbook theory under your belt.
2. Work in the summer
If the idea of working for free isn’t appealing, why not work for pay? Use your summer pay to cover as much of your college expenses as possible. This isn’t ground breaking advice but it’s amazing how many college students goof off in the summer.
I finally convinced a friend to work during the summer, going as far as getting him in contact with someone looking for help. My friend is surprised by how his money became to accumulate and how he might come close to paying off his college costs before graduation day. Before that, he would stress about his student loans!
3. Working during the school year
This is the KEY to getting ahead of most college students. If you can make the necessary sacrifices and can put up with the lack of sleep, work during the school year. It may take some time to find the right job but if you find one, it’s well worth the effort. Internships are another great option for earning money in college.
4. Get a savings & retirement account
Opening a savings account is crucial because it introduces you to the adult world and how finances are conducted. All the hard work you put in during the school year and during the summers can grow in a savings account. You may have to stay at the bank for an extra 10 minutes to sign the papers but it is definitely worth it. For me it was fairly simple and chances are you could cut the time in half by signing up with a “click-and-mortar” bank.
5. Automate your savings
College students don’t bother with automating their finances because they feel they don’t earn enough. Here’s the thing – with my first savings and retirement account I only contributed $20 a week into each. $40 a week is a what I used to spend on Subway sandwiches. Even if you contribute only $10 into each, you will be able to graduate from college with money in the bank.
My own personal philosophy is that I want more than a piece of paper when graduate day rolls around. I want the mental peace of not having to stress about paying back student loans, I want some practical experience that goes beyond memorizing a whole chapter the night before an exam, and I want to find a career at my own pace.
What did you do to get ahead of other college students? Or what do you wish you did back in college?
This is a guest post from The Studenomist @ Studenomics . Simply put, college students are often misled when it comes to personal finance and career decisions. Studenomics  is here to solve the pain by helping you graduate from college with the ability to make sound financial decisions. If you like this article then please subscribe  to the RSS feed.
(Photo: wwworks )