The Ten-Step Guide to College Financial Aid By Zachary Freeman

Reality Check!: The Misconceptions of the Young Mind

As I was speaking to a group of high school seniors last week, It dawned on me that young people really don’t have a clue.  I don’t aim to insult the intelligence of the high school student, but when it comes to managing anything, namely money, we (young people) know only enough to get us in trouble.  I want to bring to light a few of the misconceptions that are all too common among my peers in an effort to showcase our ridiculously odd perception of the way the world works.

Misconception #1:  “Regardless of the major I choose, I will have a great career immediately once I get my bachelor’s degree.”

Reality Check #1:  That couldn’t be farther from the truth.  To illustrate this, I want to share the story of my friend Abdul.  A graduate of Vanderbilt University, he received a doctorate degree in Economics in the late 1970’s.  Now, you would think that, due to the current nature of our economy, economic doctors would be in great demand.  However, Abdul has been unable to find work for the last five years because the major and degree path that he chose does not offer a wide variety of work.  It is imperative to find a major that you not only enjoy but will also benefit you in the long run.

Misconception #2: “I will be paid a six-figure salary immediately upon entering the work force with a prestigious degree.”

Reality Check #2:  Ha! This was a misconception that I personally bought into for a long time.  I have been enlightened to find out that companies in the United States are not stupid enough to pay a college graduate six figures to do an entry-level job.  One of the reasons that picking an affordable college is so important is that there is NO WAY ON EARTH that anyone can pay pack student loans on an entry-level salary.  Be realistic, kid.  Twenty to thirty grand per year is stretching it, let alone a hundred!

Misconception #3: “Money is no object when it comes to choosing a college; my income will drastically increase with a degree from a ‘prestigious’ university.”

Reality Check #3: Rarely. Most companies that hire fresh college graduates probably could not care less where you came from, as long as you are capable of doing the work that needs to be done.  All new employees start at the same place, and all have equal opportunities to be promoted based on merit in the workplace.  Picking a college that costs you $100,000-200,000 more probably isn’t worth the measly salary increase that you might receive.

Misconception #4: “My college loans will be paid off within five years of my graduation because I will be ‘makin’ bank’.”

Reality Check #4:  Most college graduates that have student loans won’t pay them off within ten years. This goes hand-in-hand with the idea of the six-figure salary.  Folks think that their “entry-level” salary is going to afford them a new BMW, a townhouse, and also somehow manage to pay all their bills and student loans.  You will put yourself in a much better spot, as a student, if you don’t fall prey to these viciously bad ideas.

Tip of the Day:

Apply for scholarships like your life depends on it – because your financial life does.  Deadlines are fast approaching.


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