Devil's Advocate 
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5 Reasons to Skip College

Devils Advocate Logo
This is a Devil's Advocate post.

USAF Academy Graduation Hat Hurray Toss, Thunderbird Fly OverWhen I was younger, the plan for my future was pretty straightforward. You go to high school to learn, get good grades, and get into a good college. You go to college to get good grades and then get a good job. After that, just circle the mouse wheel until retirement. OK, that last part about the wheel was my own addition but that basically was my “job” as a kid. That plan worked for me and it’s the path many people have walked with great success, but it’s not the only path.

With the government looking at additional regulation on the for-profit colleges, I started to wonder again whether college is “worth it.” In general, it is. However, recently with all these for-profit schools, a lot of people are going to college unnecessarily. They’re being promised things that the schools can’t deliver. They’re being sold something they don’t need, depending on what they want to do, and they’re only buying it because we’ve put “college” on a pedestal. In this Devil’s Advocate post, I explain why you might want to skip college.

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 Frugal Living 
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Tips for Buying Used College Textbooks

College TextbooksMy wife started her first semester of classes this fall on her way towards a Ph.D. One of the best things about a Ph.D., besides the degree, is that candidates are paid to go to school. The salary isn’t something you can retire on but with the cost of education, anytime you can get college education for free (or less than free, in this case!), you jump on it.

With the start of classes comes the need for college textbooks. As I remembered years ago, college textbooks are not cheap. In fact, the prices seems exorbitant to me but that’s what happens when there’s a small market forced into buying a product. Fortunately, there are some techniques you can use to defray the costs.

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 Personal Finance 
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40 Money Tips for College Students

Carnegie Mellon FlagI remember the first day I set foot at college, it was a mixture of excitement and fear at the prospect of being on my own. I arrived in Pittsburgh, PA a few days early and had the opportunity to wander around an empty campus. Carnegie Mellon University, especially in 1998, wasn’t a large campus, you could walk from one end of the campus to the other in less than twenty minutes, but it was still intimidating. After five years, a few degrees, and a great experience, I departed for the “real world.”

One thing I wish I had when I started college was a list of things I had to do for my finances like I did for my academics. College is where you set many of your life’s foundations. Whether it’s spiritual, physical, academic, or financial, your foundations are laid in your youth but set when you’re in college. I was fortunate enough not to make too many missteps and managed well enough, but I wish I had a list… so I wrote one, I hope it can help you whether you’re starting college or just starting over. I hope it helps. (and it sure beats reading another list of best paying careers!)

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 Personal Finance 
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5 Tips for Getting Ahead in College

HandJim 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).

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 Frugal Living 
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How to Live Like a Broke College Student

Empty WalletRemember the good ol’ days of ramen noodles and $5 cases of beer? Or how about those midnight cramming sessions where the only things you cared about was acing a test and that gallon of coffee next to you?

Most of us have moved on from those glory days (well, except for that gallon of coffee still next to us), but if there was one thing I learned from it all it was was this: I survived! And not only that, but I did it with a budget 1/10th of what it is today.

How is that possible?

Well, I was forced to. The Bank of Mom & Dad had done their part in helping out, but It was up to me to make ends meet and make sure I graduate on time. That meant long hours working at the dining hall, and even longer nights studying. It also meant not rolling with my friends (aka the Jones’) and hitting up Cancun every Spring Break ;)

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 Your Take 
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Your Take: What Would You Tell Yourself 10 Years Ago?

Library = Hard Work!Hindsight is 20/20, we all know that, but imagine if you not only had hindsight but also a time machine. What fun that would be! If you could go back in time ten, twenty, thirty years… what would you tell your earlier self?

I would tell myself that it takes hard work, talent, and a little bit of luck to find success in this world, emphasis on hard work. When I was 18, I had a pretty high opinion of myself. I did well in high school, I got into the college I was aiming for and go into the program I wanted to. I went to college, had to adjust to my newfound freedom, and was immediately floored by the genius that surrounded me (it was Computer Science at Carnegie Mellon University, I was routinely the least intelligent person in the room and I’m not being humble in the least). After all was said and done, I survived the experience pretty much intact.

When I entered college, I thought I could out-smart and out-think everyone. When I left, I knew that I couldn’t out-smart or out-think people, I had to out-work them. If I only had known that from the beginning, I probably would’ve graduated with a few more A’s and B’s. :)

If you had a time machine, would you tell yourself ten years ago? Don’t feel like you have to stick to personal finance tips, it’s Friday Funday, so feel free to write whatever you want!

(Photo: jhoweaa)


 Career 
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Is College Worth the Cost of Tuition? Yes.

Graduation CakeEarlier this year I finished writing an article in which I tried to find the salary breakeven point for private vs. public college graduates, a task that was impossible because I couldn’t find enough publicly available information at the time. I was trying to figure out whether college was “worth it” and if so, whether public or private college was a better value. Since I didn’t have enough data, I just took some “average student loan debt” figures and calculated the breakeven point.

In a recent Business Week article, they took a 2007 College Board analysis that showed college graduates earned 61% more than high school graduates over a 40 year career. Master’s degrees earn 93% more. It’s not the private college vs. public college debate but it’s certainly a good look at whether student loan debt, in general, is worth it.

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 Personal Finance 
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Take Control of Your Financial Situation

This article is part of the series, The Summer of George- The Most Productive Summer a College Student Will Ever Have.

Do you think that you don’t earn enough money have to worry about managing your finances? If so you are dead wrong. If you get into the habit of properly managing your finances at an early age then these habits will hopefully follow you into your 30s and so on. Let this summer be known as the time where you finally took control of your financial situation.

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