Earning an Education from Hard Knocks U: What I Learned Earning My Bachelor's Degree
by Brooke Heath
Going to school to earn your Bachelor's degree is a life-changing experience. It is stressful and exciting all at the same time. You are expected to balance multiple classes, that expect you to study 2 hours outside of the classroom for every hour spent in class; multiple projects or assignments that sometimes have to be done in a group setting with people that do not comprehend the concept of pulling their own weight; dealing with roommates that have less-than-desirable habits; and maybe trying to fit a little bit of a social life and sleep in somewhere.
Okay, I will admit it. I was not by any means, the ideal student. As a college graduate with my Bachelor of Science degree, I wonder how I even managed to get the coveted piece of paper known as a diploma. Don't get me wrong. Most of the time I tried hard and had a strong desire to learn and better myself, but there was a lot that I did not realize or took for granted during my four years in academia.
Hindsight is always 20/20, and maybe through this article, I can pass on some of my wisdom that I learn at "Hard-knocks U" on to you. And in my defense, I also did a few things right, so I will pass my positive experiences to you as well!
Apply for as Many Scholarships as Possible
This was a good move, but I have to admit I applied for many scholarships as a result of some pushing from my parents. Even so, I did all of the footwork and let me say, searching and applying for scholarships is a full-time job in itself, but well worth it! From searching through websites and keeping in contact with my financial aid counselors, I was able to find out about some scholarship opportunities that a lot of my fellow students did not know about. I also, applied for scholarships at more than one college which allowed me to compare and see which schools would offer the best package.
Attend a Junior College or Community College
A positive choice that I made was going to a junior college for my first two years of school. This was beneficial for many reasons. First and foremost, it saved a lot of money on tuition and fees. The college that I attended was the least expensive in my state and cost about $600 per semester. As my parents were helping me pay for school, they were very appreciative of this decision.
Another reason that this was a positive choice was that it improved my chances of getting merit-based scholarships from the college. I received a full-tuition scholarship at this school for my grades, but only received half-tuition at a 4-year university that I also applied to.
The third reason why this was a good move was the class sizes. The school was small, so the teacher-student ratio was much smaller. This created an atmosphere that was less intimidating to learn in, as well as less intimidating to approach the professor and ask questions in.
Finally, I am glad that I went a smaller school first because it was fun! Because the school only had about 2,100 students, I knew a lot of people, and there was always some fun activity or event going on.
I have to admit, I was really in the dark when it came to financial aid options other than scholarships. My parents encouraged me to apply for grants, loans, etc. I just assumed that because I was still a dependant of my parents, and they made decent wages, that I would not qualify. This was a HUGE mistake. The worst thing that you can do is assume this, because even if your parents are filthy rich, you can still qualify for non-need-based loans, like PLUS Loans for parents or unsubsidized Stafford Loans. Complete a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and apply for everything.
Future Employers look at Grades!
As I slept through a few of my early morning classes, I realized that I probably would not be getting a 4.0 that semester, but I never realized that my college GPA would follow me to potential jobs. However, it is true. Some employers do ask for college transcripts or ask for your GPA. I figured that if I could demonstrate that I had earned my diploma that would suffice. Don't kid yourself! Keep up those grades, because you never know who may be reviewing them in the future!
Make Friends with Your Professors
This is important, especially when you are an upperclassman. I am not saying kiss up and carry your professors' briefcase for him or her, but make sure that you stand-out to your professors, especially in classes that are part of your major. This will benefit you more than you know because having a good relationship with your professors can help you find out about internships, job openings, and other opportunities. Also, when it comes time to list references on your first job application, you will not have to call up your high school teacher!
Future Employers look for Experience
Imagine my dismay when I started applying for jobs directly out of college and realized that having a degree does not automatically give you your dream job! This is because many employers want 3-5 years experience. The catch is how to gain 3-5 years of experience if no one will hire you to allow you to get the experience!? I was able to do two non-paid internships that gave me a little bit of experience as well as insight into the profession that I wanted to have. I also listed on my almost-blank-resume some of the big projects or case studies that I worked on as a senior. All of this helped me to eventually land a job that was in a non-profit field similar to one of my internships. So, look into internships and other volunteer opportunities to take up some space on your resume, and to let employers know that you may not have 3-5 years of experience, but you do have some experience in your field.
Graduation Comes Sooner than You Expect…
As a final note, even if you are just beginning school as a freshman, make decisions with your future employment in mind. Do not take for granted that you still have X amount of years because graduation comes sooner than you expect, and then you are out in the "real world" looking for a job…
Article Title : Earning an Education from Hard Knocks U: What I Learned Earning My Bachelorâ€™s Degree
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