Money To Live

August 13, 2008

Financial advice for college students: How to not spend $5,000

Filed under: cost analysis,education — by moneytolive @ 5:00 am
Tags: ,

The point of college is to learn to think critically and effectively and communicate ideas. No matter what you do after graduation, these skills will take you far. Somehow, at the end of four years, you are supposed to know how to find a job.

The problem is that, in classes, you are usually too busy learning about Shakespeare or how neurons fire in a rat’s brain to address these bigger goals. Your professors may be so focused on their own disciplines that they provide little guidance to your broader intellectual growth.

Since universities know that professors might not help you out in these areas, they provide resources on campus. You just have to know where to look.

As a graduate student, I stumbled across these resources, and if I were to pay for the services on my own, I estimate that it would have cost more than $5,000.

Writing Center

At the Writing Center on your campus, you can get help generating ideas for a paper, detailed line-by-line editing, or anything in between. Both undergrads and grad students can make appointments for anything they are writing. I visited the writing center regularly when writing my dissertation. My advisor read my final draft and gave great feedback, but he did not have time to read each draft I wrote. At the writing center, someone sat down with me and went through line-by-line.

This is a summary of the resources I used and the estimated out-of-pocket expense I would have to pay off campus:

Workshops on writing scientific papers $100/hour: $1800

Conferences with my writing teacher $100/hour: $300

Conferences with a graduate student peer tutor $50/hour: $450

Total: $2,550

Learning Center

This wonderful office sometimes gets a bad reputation on campuses. This comes from a misunderstanding of its purpose. Students with high SAT scores who get into good colleges think they know how to read effectively, take notes quickly and effectively, and plan a large project easily. Maybe a few do, but most could benefit from these resources.

I admit I am biased: I worked for this office at two different universities and took advantage of the resources “from the inside” by teaching the ideas and techniques to other students.

Services typically aimed at undergrads:

  • Effective reading
    This could be speed reading or effective reading of textbooks. Learning this changed how I read the newspaper — I spend much less time, and I am much more informed.
  • Note-taking
  • Exam preparation
  • Planning for a large project
    This is great for planning a term paper or a senior thesis.

This office usually also offers resources for teaching on campus. Graduate teaching assistants can get help with teaching right now or in planning to go on the job market.

Services typically aimed at graduate student:

  • Workshops on pedagogy development
  • Individual advice on syllabus design and teaching statements
  • Interview preparation

This is a summary of the resources I used and the estimated out-of-pocket expense I would have to pay off campus:

Workshops (pedagogy development) $100/hour: $1,000

Teaching observation (videotaped to a DVD): $300

Teaching statement advice: $100

Total: $1,400

Career Services

These services are typically offered at a career services office (it might be the “career center” at your school):

  • Guidance in choosing jobs and industries
    They might offer you personality tests or books about career choices.
  • Guidance in finding internships
  • Practice interviewing
    This is great for perfecting your answers to questions like “What is your greatest weakness?” and “Tell me about a time you worked on a team.”
    This is also great for identifying bad interviewing habits. Whenever I finished talking in an interview, I nodded my head several times. The interviewer helped me find something else to do (shut up, sit still, and smile).
  • Resume or C.V. advice
    Be prepared to go back several times with revisions of your resume.
  • Negotiation advice
    Got an offer? Congrats! Take it in for some guidance in interpreting the offer (what is a non-disclosure agreement?) and negotiating.
  • Workshops
    Ask for a schedule of workshops or panels that the office sponsors

Keep in mind:

  • It could be hit-or-miss depending on who you meet with. Ask friends for recommendations of who is helpful.
  • The more prepared you are, the more you’ll get out of it.
  • If you don’t know where to start, go anyway and say you want help getting started.

To get similar career advice takes a lot of money. I estimate that I would have to pay $100/hour for most of these services. The director at my school was particularly helpful, and I think she could charge $200/hour.

This is a summary of the resources I used and the estimated out-of-pocket expense I would have to pay off campus:

Resume, mock interview $100/hour: $200 total

Evaluating offers, negotiation advice $200/hour (director): $400 total

Workshops on applying for jobs, interviewing, … $100/hour: $500 total

Total: $1,100

Total in free resources

Total: $1,100 + $1,400 + $2,550 =$5,050

There are countless other resources on campus — your classmates, professors, teaching assistants, residential staff, and many more.

Already out of school? Some of these offices can also help alumni, especially career services. Check with the alumni office at your school to see what resources are available.

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What did I leave out? What campus resources have you used? Leave them in the comments, with an estimate of what the services cost out-of-pocket.

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1 Comment »

  1. Hi. I am a long time reader. I wanted to say that I like your blog and the layout.

    Peter Quinn

    Comment by Peter Quinn — August 13, 2008 @ 5:59 am |Reply


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