Use Your Winter Break to Find a Summer Internship

Use Your Winter Break to Find a Summer Internship

Since there aren’t many other options, you should use your winter break to find summer internships. Your winter break used to consist of sleeping in, mom’s cooking, seeing friends, your old room, and no homework. Well, depending on where you are, you may have never left home for the fall semester this year. Seeing friends might be only via Facetime. The unknown future due to COVID-19 provides all the more reason to spend your winter break finding summer internships.

The least fun part of being home is dealing with annoying questions from family.

What are you studying again?

What are you going to do with a degree in that?”

Found a job yet?”

“Are you going to graduate school?

via GIPHY

You may or may not have any answers. I don’t care if you have answers for them, I want you to have answers for YOU. If you are a senior, things are getting really real as you buckle down on your job, grad school or post grad internship search. Even if you aren’t graduating in six months, using this winter time wisely can have a big impact on your upcoming summer internships.

Taking the time to do these things below can help you gain confidence on what can happen over the next few months. When little is predictable, you can have confidence that you are taking step to have a productive summer 2021.

Resting and Refocus

Sleep, eat, be a little lazy, exercise, talk a few walks, read a fun book, wrestle with your younger siblings and hug your family. Sometimes just being home can be enough to get you back to balance and your focus right. Resting is required for your physical and mental well-being.

However, don’t spend your entire break in bed or binge watching Netflix, Hulu, Disney+ etc. Get your baby Yoda fix on for sure, but make sure you put in some work too.

In these changing times, you might also start to think more critically about your coures and career choices. What industries have been hit hard and which industires are thriving? After a cold long winter, will summer 2021 internships be availble in your area of interest? While your rest, and declutter your mind, you can think about things more clearly.

Work on Your Resume

If you don’t have a resume, it’s time to make one. Update your resume every semester with new internships, clubs or skills you’ve gained. A resume is a one-page summary of your experience, education, skills, leadership and volunteer activities. Learn the elements of what makes a good resume and how to write a cover letter. These two tools are vital to your internship or job search.

For help, start with the career services office on campus. Even if you are not on campus, check the career services website for basic information, virtual meetings, resume templates and tips on where to begin (or you can download my free resume template). Most career services offices also offer resume reviews or critiques too. You can also check to see if they offer mock interviews. The more you prepare for an interview, the less nervous you will be.

Informational Interviews

I am a big fan of informational interviews. An informational interview is an interview you conduct with a professional in the career field you want to pursue. It is the perfect opportunity to learn about what it takes to succeed in an industry, challenges you could face, what the day-to-day life is like in that career and network.

Attempting to contact the CEO of a Fortune 500 company will probably not get you any results. This is where you start with your local network (parent’s jobs, neighbors, church members, fraternity or sorority members etc.) and then move onto using school resources to tap into the alumni network.

Through networking, you should be able to identify at least one opportunity to sit down or have a brief phone call with someone that can give you insight. Since you likely have no classes, you’ll have the time to find the right person and connect.

Create Your LinkedIn Profile

Use this time off to create your LinkedIn profile. LinkedIn is an online community for professionals of all levels to connect, network, share and learn. Many companies, large and small post jobs and internships through LinkedIn. They also use it to locate and connect with potential candidates.

Your LinkedIn profile should mirror your resume, however, it provides the opportunity to include additional information. You can write a professional summary, highlight skills, add recommendations, share a portfolio and publish content. The other great thing is that you can find and directly apply for jobs and internships through LinkedIn.

As a current student, you should not feel pressured to have a profile that fills in all the boxes to oversell who you are. Focus your energy on a solid summary and matching the sections of your resume to the online profile.

Get your resume ready, create your LinkedIn profile and start applying ASAP. Don’t miss an opportunity because you missed a deadline. Download my free Internship Manual Tracker with a free resume template to keep yourself on track.

Start Applying

The most useful way to spend this time off is to actually start applying for internships. Many companies are already accepting applications for summer 2021 – for virtual or in person internships. Companies like ViacomCBS, NBCUniversal, Netflix, Johnson & Johnson and so many others are already accepting applications for PAID summer internships (including post grad internships) across departments.

Depnding on your career goals, you can also start applying to graduate school programs. Use the break to study for any required standardized tests. If you want an MBA, you are likely going to take the GMAT, liberal arts programs mostly require the GRE, medical school candidates will need to take the MCAT and law school hopefuls will take the LSAT. Your break is the perfect time to take a study course or the test.

Learn the admissions requirements for the programs you want. Looking to become a physical therapist, know what the physical therapy degree admission requirements are well before hand. Think you want an MBA, learn the types of undergrad classes business schools look for. Goal to be a nurse, learn if an RN to BSN is the best option for you. Learning it now will allow you to carefully plan your approach.

Once you get back to school, your summer internship or graduate school search time might be more limited, so take advantage of your open winter schedule. Be smart, get a head of the game and this summer you will be glad that you did. We don’t know what things will look like for sure summer 2021, but give yourself the option. While others might sit back and wait for everything to fall into place, you can choose to take action – even in the midst of a pandemic.

Has Coronavirus Cancelled Your Commencement?

Has Coronavirus Cancelled Your Commencement?

Across the country, or rather the world, Coronavirus has cancelled commencement for millions of college students.  

Commencement is supposed to be the culmination and celebration of years of late nights, physical and financial sacrifices, tears, work, stress and unforgettable moments. The day when friends and family and your tribe that has held you down for years, stands proudly and screams loudly as your name is called. 

It’s okay to be sad. It’s okay to be mad. Despite the absence of a physical ceremony, know that you have still indeed graduated from this stage of life. You are moving up, moving on, moving out into the world. As uncertain as these times are, you are entering this new phase and bringing a collection of beautiful experiences with you.

Where to go from here

On top of a cancelled commencement, you are entering into an uncertain  job market. Just two months ago, you were headed unto a strong economy with a good job market.  Now, companies are rescinding job and internship offers daily while people are filing for unemployement in record numbers.

Things took a very quick turn for the worst. But, since no one knows what life will look like 3 months from now, things could turn around just as quickly. The economy will likely bounce back after the crisis is over, companies will once again hire and salaries will return. What we don’t seem to know today is when will the virus end and that turn around actually begin.

I don’t know what our new “normal” will be. There are many unanswered questions about how jobs will change, will more people begin working from home permanently, will more people seek employment rather than freelancing, how will our social interactions change and so many more questions. I don’t have a crystal ball, but what I can offer are some ideas on how to move forward when your classes are over in a few weeks. 

  1. Celebrate your success
Graduation Day – SUNY Oswego, B.A.
True story, I skipped my MS degree graduation.

Right now you are likely finishing up your classes online. Focus your energy on finishing strong (not like you can can go anywhere right now anyway). When you have handed in that last paper breathe, yell, scream, shout, jump and realize that you did it!

I know some schools are doing virtual commencement ceremonies to mark the day. Even if your school is not offering that option, order a cake, order some food, blow up some ballons, put on your cap and gown, take some pictures and celebrate by yourself or with whomever else is trapped in the house with you!

Prayerfully, you will be able to celebrate outside soon!

2. Don’t run to graduate school if things get hard

When the economy tanks, the first impulse is to run out and get another degree. I understand the impulse but chill. For real.

When the economy tanks, the first impulse is to run out and get another degree. I understand the impulse but chill. For real. Right now earning another degree with no work experience is not going to vastly improve your shot at landing a job. Taking on additional student loan debt for a degree that won’t do much to increase your salary is not a smart move. 

There are professions like teaching or accounting or some medical careers that require a Master’s degree, that is different. You do not need to go right into a graduate program that does not have a return on investment or won’t improve your marketability. If you feel you must add a specific skill such as learning a computer language, there a plenty of low cost and free resources online.

Most ranked business and law schools prefer candidates with a few years of work experience. If you are looking to go that route, working for a few years will help make you competitive for those programs in the future.

Wait it out. The market will turn. 

3. Your first job after college is not your last

Your first job after college does not have to define your career. Your first job is a stepping stone, a resume builder to show future employers your ability to apply what you learned in college. In your first role you will learn what you like and don’t like, enhance certain skills, learn new skills, love it some days and hate it others. 

Statistics say that in your lifetime you will have three different careers. I started off in higher education and have remained in the field, but with 8 different colleges and one non-profit working in three different states. 

When you are entering into a tough job market, your first job might not be your perfect job. I’m not saying you take the first thing offered, but I do suggest you use wisdom and not let every offer pass by. When you are applying for jobs, you should ask yourself if you would take the job if they offered. If you know you don’t want the job, then don’t waste their time or yours. 

That said, I am not talking about a part-time job that you may take to pay bills while you wait for a full-time opportunity. In that case, take what pays best and starts fastest while you search for perm work.

We all know someone or may have even been that “someone” who is underemployed or working a job the doesn’t require a degree. It happens. Some people who start in jobs that don’t require a degree will grow stagnant and not make the necessary moves to break into the next level of their career. If you find yourself taking a role that doesn’t seem to match your education and experience, decide from jump that you are going to continue to network, showcase skills, add new skills and claw your way towards your career goals. 

4. Remain flexible

When I gradauted college I wanted to work in PR for a big public relations agency. I realized quickly I was too broke to move to NYC or Boston or any major east coast city on an entry level PR salary! My sister mentioned a role she saw at local university in college admissions. It sounded fun and interesting and would allow me to use my public speaking skills. Fast forward I have since spent a career in higher education. I’ve never worked directly for a pr agency (or had a desire to).

Don’t just read job titles, read the descriptions fully. Look for roles, responsibilities and duties that get you excited. Look for roles in industries that you are interested in being in. Don’t be so focused on only one type of role that you look past what could be other great opportunities.

Right now, in the midst of the highest unemployment rates our country has ever experienced, there are still companies hiring!

  • Amazon is hiring 100,000
  • CVS Health is hiring 50,000
  • Lowes is hiring 30,000
  • Pepsico is hiring 6,000

Don’t assume that every job is paying minimum wage. Do your research and see what is out there. Also, not all retail positions are front line, there are marketing departments, IT, analytics, operations, finance, human resources and so many other types of roles in nearly every sector.

Coming out of school, you can also consider doing a post-graduate internship. In the current economy, that could be the perfect move to gain experience while waiting for the market to turn. The unfortunate reality though is that it could be an unpaid internship. I am not a fan of unpaid internships but as they say, desperate times call for desperate measures. 

5. Stay home and save your money

The importance of saving money and setting yourself up to be financially stable is more important than rushing out to show how much of an adult you are.

Not everyone has the option of returning home after college, but if you can, do it. There are a lot of people who jumped ship with no safety net who are regretting that decision big time right now. The importance of saving money and setting yourself up to be financially stable is more important than rushing out to show how much of an adult you are. 

Take the longer commute, deal with your family, but take the cheap or if you are lucky, free rent along with no utility bills for a short time. Set a time frame for finding a job and for moving out (3-12 months). Be intentional with how you spend your money, stick to a budget and set financial goals. 

Moving out with an emergency fund in place and a steady income can set you up to not have to move back home 6 months later.

Look, we are in the middle of a never seen before global pandemic. If you don’t wake up everyday and spend 3 hours looking for a job, I personally think that is perfectly fine. Don’t be pressured to feel like you have to come out of this period speaking six new languages, how to build a computer and ready to compete and Top Chef. You just conquered a major achievement in life. Be proud and have your moment.

Congratulations to the class of 2020.

4 Things to Do Three Months Before College Graduation

4 Things to Do Three Months Before College Graduation

It’s February. Three months before the members of the graduating class triumphantly enter the ranks of the “real-world.” Across the U.S. college seniors are experiencing mixed emotions ranging from excitement to anxiety, from stress to fear. Job, new apartment, moving, leaving friends, going back home, all of it is enough to drive anyone crazy.

There are those few seniors who have already accepted job offers and can breeze through a little less stressed this spring. If you are not among them, then the simple question of, “so what are your plans after graduation” can seem like the  most difficult question that anyone has asked you in the last four years.

What if I don’t find a job? Did I do enough internships? Where am I going to live? Should I go to graduate school if I can’t find a job? These and other questions are running through your mind possibly keeping you up at night, while your roommate doesn’t seem to be worried at all because after all, there are still three months left until graduation.

So, what are you to do?

Relax.

Take a breath.

I can’t answer every question you have about finding a job in a single post. I can however, offer some guidance to get you on track to finding that first “real” job out of college and attempt to calm some of the voices of fear and doubt in your head.

1. Start looking for a job ASAP

Visit career services and get your resume and cover letter in order. At this point in your career, your resume should not exceed one-page. Even if you have done 8+ internships (like I did) you still need to make your work experience fit on one page. It’s okay to have two different resumes that highlight different skills and goals, it is not okay to have a two-page resume. Due to the mixture of internship and work experiences I had in college, when I graduated I had a sales focused resume and a public relations focused resume.

Career services is there to assist you in making your resume professional and polished. There will more than likely be a spring career/internship fair on your campus, which gives you the perfect opportunity to take your new resume for a test drive. Most career services offices offer mock interviews, so schedule an appointment and start working on your interview skills. You can pay a professional service to write your resume, but use free campus resources first.

2. Talk to people

Reach out to your network and let them know what types of opportunities you are looking for. Talk to everyone from your recently employed friends, to your parents, your friends parents, your fraternity/sorority connections, professors, internship supervisors, mentors and members of professional associations. Your network of people might be bigger than you think. Don’t rely only on internet searches and sending off countless resumes. Word of mouth can be a powerful tool. 

In order to talk to people about what you want to do, you need to first have an idea of what you want to do. So, think critically and carefully about your next steps so that you will be able to identify opportunities as they come up. Get out there and attend networking events. If you are intimidated by the prospect of going to a networking event alone, find a fellow senior who is in the same boat and go together, but don’t spend the night only talking to each other.



3. Balance your time

Set aside atleast two hours a day for job search related activities. Finding a job isn’t just about sending out resumes. Dedicate time to researching companies, finding networking events to attend, using social media, scheduling informational interviews, touching up your resume, writing cover letters, applying to openings and following up.

It doesn’t have to be overwhelming if you get organized, schedule your time and don’t try to do everything at once. You still have classes, study time,
campus activities, maybe an internship, job, a social life and other things going on, so organization is key!

4. Use social media wisely

I know I said a few times that you have to get off of the computer and talk to people, but that is because I don’t want you to depend ONLY on the internet for your job search. Social media can be a valuable tool in finding a job. If you haven’t yet, join LinkedIn, a social network for the business world. You can create a profile and connect with potential employers, research companies and discover job or internship openings. Follow companies that you are interested in on Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Instagram, SnacpChat and Facebook. Those connections will allow you to see how potential employers engage with their audiences.

Before you begin, inspect your own social media sites for compromising content and consider activating all of the privacy settings. You may use social media to peak at potential employers, they may do the same to you so be careful about what is available to the public.

I know I said four things, but as a bonus I have to tell you to enjoy yourself. Don’t get so caught up in the job search that you fail to enjoy and embrace the last few months of this unique time in your life. Celebrate the accomplishment of completing your degree! You can be serious and diligent about your job search and still make time to live in the moment and create more memories before you say good-bye to your college days.

Why Recent College Grads Should Consider Post Grad Internships

Why Recent College Grads Should Consider Post Grad Internships

Updated Dec 5, 2020

There are a number of reasons why recent college grads should consider post grad internships. In a perfect world, you bang out your final exams, graduate, maybe move to a new city, set up your new apartment and start your career at a well-paying job the week after graduation. Well, that idea has been thrown out the window – thanks COVID! For a lot people, post grad internships while we recover from COVID-19 might be the best short-term solution.

An 8-12 week post graduation internship might be a better alternative to taking any unfulfilling full-time job. The best scenario is a paid internship of course, however, if you find a flexible full-time job, you could still intern for 15-20 hours per week at the same time. Overall, the additional internship experience buys you time while you build your resume, look for a job and wait for the economy to bounce back. Doing an internship after college does not mean you’ve given up!

“75 percent of employers report that the primary focus of their internship program was to recruit college graduates for full-time, entry-level positions.” 

1. Employers like to hire previous interns

According to a recent National Assocation of  Colleges and Employers Survey, 75 percent of employers report that the primary focus of their internship program was to recruit college graduates for full-time, entry-level positions. For employers, the opportunity to work with an intern for a few months is the best way to observe if that person will be a good fit with the company long-term.

For you, internships let you determine if you want to work for the company or in that field. Getting invovled, working on projects and contributing to an employer through an intership is your best chance at showing them why they need to hire you.  Be the exceptional intern and you could go from intern to employee before the internship is over.



2. Post grad internships can give you work experience

Post grad internships give you additional work experience. Work experience is the #1 thing employers look for in a new hires. Maybe you’ve heard people say, “how am I supposed to get experience if no one will hire me“, the answer is internships. Employers like to see internship experience because it shows that you have had a chance to apply your classroom knowledge in a real world setting. The classroom, your grade point average and the college you attended can only take you so far. You need to be able to show that you can contribute on the job and learn quickly. Use your internship to gain or improve new hard and soft skills which will make you more marketable.

Consider that in this post COVID-19 world, there are industries that have flondered and others that have flourished.  A post grad internship could be the way to enter a different industry that you hadn’t thought of.

3. You’re not excited about your major

When you started your college career you may have been all gung-ho about your major. Somewhere along the way you just lost the excitement you once had. An internship in the field could confirm that you really don’t like it or remind you of why you were excited before. The good/bad thing about an internship is that it is for a set period of time. At the end of 8-12 weeks, if you find that you actually do hate the field, your co-workers or the company, you can leave with no strings attached.

I did eight internships in college. As a public relations major I did internships in business, sales, marketing, public affairs and public relations, in different sectors for companies and organizations of varying sizes. What I learned about myself, the workplace, and the skills I needed for each profession was invaluable! Getting beyond your major could be an eye opening experience for you.

4. Build Your Network

post grad internsNetworking is a major component to finding a job. Some surveys say that up to 85% of people find their jobs though networking. Your network might be bigger than you think when you stop to consider friends, family, fraternity or sorority connections, the university alumni network, religious affiliations and professional organizations. However large or small your network, spending time at an internship provides the opportunity to expand your network.

I recommend doing multiple informational interviews while at your internship to learn about different positions as well as the people in those roles. Networking opportunities can also lead to you meeting and connecting with mentors. Mentors are an incredible resource and you should make an effort to establish a relationships with someone who can be a mentor. The guidance of a mentor could help you clarify where you want to work and what you want to do.

5. Graduate school is expensive

I took two years off between my undergradate and graduate degrees. I thought I knew what I wanted. As graduation grew closer, I only seemed to get more confused about location, law school, grad school, b-school or going straight into the workforce. I returned home to Rochester, NY and landed my first full-time job in college admissions. That two years of work experience helped me gain clarity on my professional and academic goals, pay down some student loan debt and save money for moving to Maryland for graduate school.

In turn, the work experience I gained made getting a graduate assistantship (GA) an easier path for me. I was a GA in the Office of Student Affairs. As a graduate Assistant, my tuition was 100% covered the university in exchange for 15-20 hours of work per week.  In addition to my tuition being covered, I was paid $12,000 per year. My graduate assistantship (similar to an internship) allowed me to continue to build my resume, get involved on campus and helped clarify my professional goals. It also saved me about  $25,000.




6. Where to find post grad internships

So if you’ve established that a post grad internship might be a good idea, what’s next. There are some companies that have been doing post grad internships for years.

Those are just a few companies offering post grad internships. Check sites like LinkedIn, Indeed, Monster and other job search engines. Also, subscribe to my Diversity Internship Directory, a comprehensive listing of companies looking for diverse interns and new hires. Depending in the industry,  it migh be easier post COVID-19 to find an internship over a full-time job.

7. You can perfect your job searching skills

If you can master the internship search process, you will be better at searching for a job. For either purpose, job or internship, you need to put together a well-crafted resume and cover letter. Putting together a superstar level LinkedIn profile is also a necessity in todays competitive work environment. If you have never been on a professional job interview, interviewing for internships can help you gain confidence in your interviewing skills.

Deciding to do an internship post-grad doesn’t mean you just apply for everything you see and hope for the best. Develop a strategy and understand what type of internship you are looking for. What skills do you want to enhance or learn? Is there a particular industry or company you want to work for? Just like your job search, your internship should be focused too. My free Internship and Job Tracker walks you through the steps of getting your internship game plan together.

The key to success is to be proactive. Get your resume together, apply, network, learn new skills, practice interviewing and do an internship. Evaluate what you want and see if it is in line with the skills you bring to the table. It may not happen overnight, but you will breakthrough.

If an internship is not your choice, then jump into your first post graduation job, make a few dollars and understand that it is only the beginning!

Avoid the $1.7 Trillion Student Loan Crisis

Avoid the $1.7 Trillion Student Loan Crisis

Updated January 2021

The student loan debt crisis continues to grow at an astronomical rate.  In the last decade, student loan debt has ballooned by 102%. The nearly $1.7 trillion student loan debt crisis has surpassed auto loans and credit card debt and is second to only mortgage debt in the consumer loan category.

With planning and intentionality, you can avoid joining the $1.7 trillion student loan debt crisis.  On average, the Class of 2019 graduated college with $28,950 in student loan debt. Everyone says, “just take out student loans” but then no one wants to talk about how to pay back tens of thousands of dollars. Not everyone gets a high paying job after graduation, and not every student graduates. If you fail to finish, you still have to pay those student loans back.

Can you get a college education without taking on massive debt and adding to the student loan debt crisis? Making reponsbile choices, understanding the loan process and creating a plan can help you reduce your future student loan burden. 

Don’t Believe the Hype

Don’t believe the hype that says the only way to go to college is through debilitating student loan debt. That is a lie. It is possible to graduate in four-years, avoid or minimize student loan debt, complete multiple internships and have employers looking to recruit you after you graduate.

Families without college savings, or the ability to pay cash find themselves pressured to sign on the dotted line for student loans. They fall prey to the mass marketing that oversimplifies the impact of debt while only promoting the promise of a degree. A rule of thumb I often hear and agree with, your total student loan debt shouldn’t exceed your expected first-year earnings. If your projected income is $45,000 per year, your total student loan debt should not exceed that amount. 

Day after day you hear stories about millennials having buyer’s remorse over student loans. Graduates wishing they’d gone to a cheaper school, lived at home or saved money before going to college. They believed the hype that big loans were the only option and have since learned it wasn’t necessarily true.

So, the first thing you should do is separate yourself from the belief that big loans are the only option on the table. When you remove that option from the table, it will force you to evaluate your choices more carefully as well as be creative in paying for college.

 

 

 

via GIPHY

Pick a College You Can Actually Afford

Keep it simple. When shopping for a college, just like a picking car or house you need to have a realistic budget of what you can afford. Parents and students need to have the tough conversation before the search process begins. The conversations around the college budget should start in high school.

In 2021, the average private college tuition is around $35,087 with total costs around $53,000. In-state public school tuition averages $9,687. Knowing the numbers and understanding the costs of college are essential to evaluating offers. 

For some students, unfortunately there is no college savings, there is no 529 plan, there is nothing to help. For others, learning to live within and make choices within the limits of any savings is a must.  The scholarship search is intense and lengthy to score the type of money most students need. Many colleges also offer merit-based scholarships (scholarships based academic performance) to attract and help applicants.

The dream school, with the dream name, in the dream location might not be in the budget. You might be left with the option of taking on student loans, or searching for an alternative and affordable school that still checks most of your boxes. 

Every college financial aid or admissions website offers a tool called the net price calculator. It is a feature that allows you to input financial information and receive an estimate of what your financial aid package might look like, therefore giving you an estimated net price. 

The most affordable school is the one you can pay for without deep studen loan debt. 

 Expand Your Search 

Expand your search to include colleges you’ve probably never heard of. There are 4,000 colleges across the country. Start in your own backyard with public and private institutions within driving distance. Look beyond the big brand name.

As you continue through the search process you can narrow your focus from just cost to other factors.  Important considerations include academic major, school size, class size, location, unique programs, scholarships and overall fit to name a few.

When attending college fairs, virtual or in-person, take the time to explore schools you haven’t heard of. Just as importantly, don’t eliminate a school you grew up near just because “everyone goes there” or “it’s not far enough away”. You could be overlooking the right fit school that comes in at the right price. 

I graduated from two public colleges and I have also worked in college admissions at five private colleges. I’ve placed over 400 interns and newly hired grads with some of the biggest companies in the world. Success is based on you and your ability and your network, not just the name on your diploma.

student loan debt crisis

Take Dual Enrollment Classes in High School

There has been a rapid increase in dual enrollment programs. Dual enrollment programs allow high school students to take college courses before they graduate. Students may complete a few courses or even graduate high school with an Associate’s degree from the participating college. The result could be major savings in college tuition.

In addition to cost savings, you also enter college with more confidence about your ability to do the work. Many colleges will still consider you an entering freshman making you eligible for freshman merit scholarship money. If your school offers this option, jump on it!

Consider a Gap Year to Save Money

gap year

The number of students taking a gap year is also on the rise, the most famous example probably being Malia Obama delaying entry into Harvard for a year. Well, at the moment, COVID-19 has shut down travel plans, however, your gap year doesn’t have to include travel.

My version of a gap year on a budget is about doing a few internships and working full-time or part-time to save money. Internships can also help you develop a true understanding of what career you want to follow. Set a goal to save enough money to pay for at least your first year in cash. Experiment with a low-cost start up business idea and learn new skills like computer coding, sales, or graphic design. 

Taking time off can also prevent changing majors multiple times (most students change majors three times before graduation). A year of working can increase focus as you learn more about yourself, your interests and what excites you.  Student loans are bad enough, but don’t take on student loans to pursue a career you don’t want. 

In a gap year, you may also start working full-time for an employer who can help you pay for school. Employers like Wegmans, Fed Ex, Starbucks, Wal-Mart and others offer scholarships to employees. When you look for a full or part-time job, take this factor into account and it could mean thousands of scholarship dollars to help pay for school. 

Attending Community College is Perfectly Fine

SUNY Oswego

My personal path involved attending a community college and earning an Associate’s degree before transferring to the State University of New York at Oswego. Most people actually don’t even know I went to a community college. It’s where and how you finish that matters, not where you start.

Was I disappointed that I didn’t go away like many of my friend’s freshman year? Ah, yes, but I eventually got over it with time. My parents paying cash for those first two years at community college was something I couldn’t fully appreciate then, but I do now.

With careful planning and an understanding of the transfer process, you can still graduate in four-years. I completed my Bachelor’s degree on time, with a transfer scholarship with no academic credit issues. It’s a process that you have to stay on top of from day one.

I didn’t finish college debt free, but who knows how bad it would have been if I took on loans for my first two years. I ended up with three degrees and $25,000 in student loan debt, most of that coming in graduate school. Student loans don’t have to be the kiss of death, but understand how much you are taking on, and have a plan to pay it back.

Living at home and attending a public university is one of the most affordable paths to a degree. Living at home after you earn your degree and attacking your student loan debt is also potentially life changing situation for you.

When I went to SUNY Oswego, tuition was $3,400 and the total cost of attendance was about $10,000. SUNY tuition in 2021 is only $6,470 which is still one of the best buys in public college education. All New York (SUNY) college tuition is the same price. For a student who lives at home and is willing to commute (even for a 1 or 2 years) attending a public university is one of the most affordable paths to a degree.

Remember Why You Are Going to College

I am a first generation college student. My father worked in facilities for Eastman Kodak for 20+ years and my mom had an in-home daycare.  Yes, college was fun. I met my best friend and made life long connections. I was personally and academically challenged, tried new things and learned new things.

At the end of the day, I went to college to create a future that would allow me to have a career. In the midst of my college fun, I did eight internships which I detail in my book, The Internship Manual and worked a bunch of part-time jobs so that I could have enough experience for my resume.

How badly do you want to go to college and avoid the student loan debt trap? Get a job, sell stuff on Ebay, drive Uber and save money. Most people can find extra money in their budget when they stop and think critically about needs versus want. If college is a need, get rid of the unnecessary wants.

Doing these things won’t bring a $54,000 per year school within reach. It will, however, make a $6,500 public school while living at home a realistic opportunity. One you might be able to do in cash or with the federal loan program.

Don’t lose site of the goal. Graduate college and start your career. Attending college is not a promise, but a privilege. Make the wise financial and academic decisions today that will give you more options in your future.