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Whatever way you look at it, college is becoming less and less the norm. Not so long ago, studying for years was the only real way to a job which paid big. Now, education is being swept aside for experience. Even those who do take the time to study find themselves left in the cold. Instead, contemporary life focuses much more on practical training options available, such as apprentice positions. Indeed, long-term studying has lost some of its old appeals.
In some areas, this could be seen as a good thing. Much of the time, apprenticeships teach more than classrooms ever could. On top of which, the paid nature of training like this ensures it’s accessible for everyone, from anywhere. Forget education and opportunity being the reserve of the elite. Apprenticeships are open to people of all backgrounds. On top of which, they ensure those individuals can pay their way in life, rather than spending your their early working years drowning in debt.
But, it’s also important to note that losing college education altogether would be a disaster. While many careers are best learned on the job, those who study medicine and other such subjects need time in the classroom. With topics like these, there’s a lot to learn. And, if people stop studying them, we’ll soon find ourselves in trouble.
In reality, long-term studying isn’t an easy fix anymore, nor is it a sure way into your chosen career. But, if you enter the college system with your eyes wide open, there’s no reason you can’t make this work for you. To ensure you don’t grow disheartened, we’re going to look at some of the unexpected realities you might face, and how you can get around each one.
You’ll need to take part-time jobs while you study
Reality number one is that you will, inevitably, have to take part-time jobs while you study. If you’re undergoing an intense course, this may come as an unpleasant distraction. But, even if you don’t need immediate financial support, working for as little as one day a week is essential. There are a few different reasons for this. On the one hand, it gives you experience in the working world. And, in case you hadn’t realized by now, the experience is what you’re after. This, paired with your qualification, will set you in much better standing when the time comes. If possible, a receptionist job or something similar in the field you’re studying would be the best bet. Often, qualifications aren’t required for such roles. But, working in the right environment will be a major plus point on your resume. That said, even getting a job in a retail store for the duration of your studies would be better than not working at all.
Another significant benefit of working on the side is that you can start to save some money. Most of us don’t have to repay our student loans until we’re earning significant amounts. But, there will come a time when you have to clear your debt, and that will be much easier if you have some money saved away. This way, you’ll be able to up your monthly payments, and survive from your savings if you need to. So, don’t be surprised if you find yourself applying for less than ideal jobs during your college days. You’ll be glad you took the effort in the future.
Your college connections don’t ensure your career
While we’re more aware now than ever that college doesn’t always lead to careers, there’s a belief that the connections we make there could. And, most colleges do at least try to introduce students to professionals who can help in the future. But, this doesn’t mean that these people will automatically offer you a job down the line. College may open doors, but it’s up to you whether you walk through them, or whether you’re invited to do so. Plus, there may just not be a job available at the time you need it.
So, instead of relying on connections college helps you make, you may want to make some of your own in the meantime. This could involve anything, from submitting samples of your work to keeping an eye on the people you’d love to work with in the future. Opening the doors of communication is also a good idea. There’s nothing wrong with sending an inquiry email explaining who you are, what you’re doing, and expressing your interest for the future. Then, when the time comes, you can return to that line of communication, and see where it takes you.
There will be crippling debt
Student loans and debts are no secret. In fact, this is the central scandal of education in the modern age. But, people are less keen to talk about just how crippling such debts are for many people. To give you some idea, research by Citizens Financial Group suggests that many ex-students don’t clear that debt until their forties. When you consider that financial security is difficult for younger generations as it is, this is a pretty shocking statistic. There is, of course, the reassurance that your studies should lead to a high-paying position. But, it seems ambitious to assume that position will remain stable for so many years. What about the time taken to have a family, or because of health reasons? Sure, you don’t have to repay your loan until you earn so much. But, once repayments start, you’re trapped in a vicious cycle.
That said, this shouldn’t be enough to put you off applying to study in the first place. While it may take longer than you’d expect, it is possible to pay student loans. Millions of people do just that every day. And, there are ways to lessen the load if you’re worried. You could look into scholarships, or help with funding before you start studying. Even after your college days are over, there are steps you can take to ensure ongoing financial stability. Paying towards insurance policies, for example, could help relieve some of the pressure. Those in the medical field could pay into policies like the disability options mentioned at this link. That way, the time taken off work for injuries down the line won’t be such a concern. There are similar plans for most careers, so it’s worth doing your research here.
It’s also worthwhile to consider, before you start, how long it’ll take to pay off your loans. That way, you won’t have any unpleasant surprises. You can always hurry this process if you’re in the position to do so later. For the most part, though, sticking with a payment plan is an excellent way to tackle the issue head-on, and you guessed it, with your eyes wide open.
What you know doesn’t always make you good at what you want to do
This may seem like a slightly strange point, but it’s one of the most relevant on this list. When we’re in a college environment, it’s all too easy to lose sight of the real world. You may fall into the false belief that learning things in a classroom qualifies you to do them in a work environment. But, that’s rarely the case. At the end of the day, anyone can read something in a book. That doesn’t mean they’re then qualified to go out there and do it. Sure, you’ve got some of the best minds talking to you about it as well, but the reality is still a very different beast. This is part of the reason why experience is so vital to those hiring. Knowing the information and doing the thing couldn’t be further apart.
The best way to prepare yourself here is to get work experience, whether through a college placement, or a part-time position. Go out of your way to apply your learning in a practical sense whenever possible. Sometimes, this is easier said than done. Those studying to become hairdressers can practice with friends and family. Those studying to become physicians can’t quite do the same thing. But, in some form or another, you should find a practical application for your knowledge.
It also helps to just accept this fact. If you go into a workplace thinking you know everything, it will not end well for you. For one thing, you don’t, so you could make vital mistakes. For another, you’ll annoy your work team, and that’s never a good thing. Instead, accept that you have the knowledge, and the ability to do these things, but you’re yet to actually do them. Watch those who have been in the job for years, and don’t be afraid to ask questions. If you put your pride first here, you’ll soon regret it. Instead, realize that the world has as much to teach you as the classroom did. That doesn’t mean that your years spent studying were wasted. It just means that the lessons of life never end. And, that’s something we could all do with remembering now and again.