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Regret is a part of life. Unfortunately, it’s also a part of the post-college experience for many grads looking back on their college years. The good news? By learning about some of the most common regrets expressed by former college students now, you can take proactive steps to avoid ending up with the same laments. To that end, we’re counting down five top regrets experienced by college grads.
1. Not taking enough stimulating classes
It’s easy to lose track of the big picture in college. After all, you’re finally out on your own with near-endless ways to spend your time. It’s hardly a surprise that you’re inclined to take less-than-challenging classes to leave more time for everything from sleeping in to partying. Unfortunately, this is a short-sighted outlook with potentially long-term consequences.
Choosing a class because of its reputation as a “gut” or because it’s offered in the afternoon as opposed to in the morning may seem like the an easy thing to do, but is it the best thing to do? Instead, keep your eye on the prize — your own bright future! — by choosing classes because they are of interest to you and/or because they’re connected to your future career.
Think of it this way: After graduation, you’ll never regret having to get up at 8AM to make it to your 9AM class your sophomore year of college, but you will regret being eliminated from consideration for a job because you don’t have the right academic credentials.
2. Not traveling abroad
You might think college life is demanding, but as soon as you graduate and get a job, your life gets a whole lot more crowded with responsibilities. In college, however, there are not only plentiful study abroad opportunities, but they are designed to seamlessly integrate within a semester or academic year.
From personal enrichment to second language fluency to the global perspective sought after by today’s employers, international study has many rewards. And there’s no better time to start cashing in on them than during college.
3. Poor money management
College students aren’t exactly known for their financial prudence. Between late-night beer and pizza to easy access to credit, the temptation to spend — particularly for students who’ve until now been financially dependent on their parents — is strong. But cavalier spending in college can lead to dire outcomes. In fact, a staggering 77 percent of college grads under the age of 40 regret failing to adequately plan for student loan debt management, according to a study conducted by Citizens Financial Group as reported by Time.
While students can take steps to minimize their loan debt by budgeting during their college days, applying for scholarships, and only borrowing when absolutely necessary, another group of people can play an equally if not more important in preparing students for the realities of debt: Parents. Open discussions about the cost of college and how families plan to pay for it can help ensure that students fully understand the implications of carrying student loan debt.
4. Opting out of internships
If you’re like many students, you may already feel stretched thin by your course load. However, when it comes to landing the job of your dreams, it may take more than a great class schedule. With employers increasingly prioritizing real-world skills, internships have not only become differentiating factors on a resume, but can also be an invaluable networking tool. Your university career office to learn more about available jobs and summer internships. Some may require your services just a few hours a week while yielding exponential payoffs.
Need more proof to hop on the internship train? According to research from the New York Federal Reserve, candidates with work experience in their industries were 14 percent more likely to get interviews than their non-working counterparts. The research further concluded that work experience outweighed everything from grades to majors when it came to landing jobs.
5. Skipping opportunities for social involvement
Committing to your coursework doesn’t mean forgoing all other aspects of life. In fact, a well-rounded experience may not only be the key to enjoying your college years, but can also help lay the groundwork for a more fulfilling life after college, too. For many people, the friends they make during college become their closest friends for life. For others who don’t put themselves out there, however, lack of friendships turn into lifelong regret.
The truth is that college is one of the easiest times in life to form meaningful bonds. Why? Because you’re all in the same boat!
If, however, you struggle with making friends one-on-one or just haven’t found your tribe yet, joining a student club or intramural sports team can help you meet and connect with like-minded people.
Mark Twain once wrote, “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” We can think of no better scenario to which this quote applies than the college years. The overall takeaway? Stop worrying about what you might not do, and get out there and start doing!