Financial Regrets of College Graduates: The 3 Biggest Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

When it comes to your finances, the most important thing is to start early and plan ahead. A lot of people make expensive mistakes when entering adulthood that they’ll regret later on in life. If you want to avoid these costly mistakes then here are three things you should keep in mind before starting out.

The “name 10 jobs you can get without a college or university degree that are highly paid?” is a question about what the most common mistakes people make when it comes to their career. There are 3 big mistakes that many college graduates make, and they include not choosing a career path, not starting as soon as possible, and not saving enough money.

Vintage man in graduation robe and hat looking despondent.

Over 20 million students will be returning to college this autumn, either after a summer vacation or for the first time. If you’re a first-year student, you’re undoubtedly eager and thinking about meeting new friends, living in a dorm, attending parties, and what your courses will be like. However, it’s unlikely that you’re thinking about how much college will cost you.

Your viewpoint will most likely have altered four years from now, when you’re walking through the door in the other way. Two-thirds of all graduates will accrue debt while in school, whether it is in the form of student loans or credit card debt. And, for some reason, male students will accumulate greater debt than their female counterparts: males average roughly $30k in student loans (compared to $23k for women) and almost double the non-loan debt (such as credit cards) ($18k to $9k). You may look back and wish you had done things differently while you’re looking down that debt in your cap and gown.

Accounting Principals polled over 500 recent graduates, and they revealed three major financial regrets about their college experience (see the whole report):

  • They wished they had sought scholarships and financial help more aggressively.
  • They wish they had chosen a different major with a better chance of landing a job and a greater beginning income.
  • They wish they had acquired a job and started saving money while still in college.

If you’re just starting college, or even halfway through, you have the benefit of addressing these possible future regrets now, rather than mourning what you wish you had known as a frosh as you drive away from campus for the final time. Here’s how to do it.

1. Make a concerted effort to get scholarships.

The most important thing you can do to aid yourself financially while a student is to apply for scholarships and grants. Financial help may take numerous forms: student loans, income-based grants, and so on. After completing an application and the FAFSA, most students and parents will cross their fingers that money will arrive. Scholarships and scholarships based on academics and other activities, on the other hand, are an underused resource. Those based on academics are rather simple. The higher your grades, the more likely you are to get them. Many institutions provide scholarships to students who achieve a particular GPA. (Don’t stop seeking once you’re in school; some of my most valuable scholarships arrived during my last two years, when my GPA was at its greatest.) That’s a great illustration of how your hard work in college may pay off in the form of financial benefits.

The second option is to hunt for scholarships in less traditional venues. Take into account the following:

  • Employer of Parents: Many major companies/organizations provide scholarships to their workers’ children. If not universal scholarships, some corporations may provide a scholarship to a youngster who pursues an education in the same sector as the company. Request that your parents do study, and they may even collaborate with their employer to establish a scholarship fund if one does not already exist.
  • School Networks: You’re most likely already filled out scholarship applications for your high school. You should be doing it if you aren’t already. Local alumni organizations of the college you’re considering are the next place to look. Many times, a few affluent alums may provide scholarships to a select few kids each year, and this is another place where you can acquire specialized scholarships. I was awarded a scholarship from an alum that was to be given to a journalism student with a 3.0 GPA or above. So do some research with local alumni organizations and you won’t be disappointed.
  • Community Groups: Many non-profits and service organizations in your community will provide scholarships to kids. To begin, inquire about your parents’ involvement in organizations or non-profits, as well as any scholarships available. Next, consider well-known organizations such as Rotary Club, Goodwill, and others. If you find out that an organization provides a scholarship, volunteer for them to increase your chances even more! It’s a win-win situation: you get to serve your community while also having a chance to obtain some tuition assistance.
  • Religious Organizations: Many faith-based organizations will provide financial aid to persons who share their beliefs. For Catholics, there’s the Knights of Columbus, and for Jews, (a national student organization) may lead you in the right direction. Do some research to see whether your religious membership might provide you with scholarship chances.
  • Field of Study: If you have a strong notion of what you want to study in school, you may have an advantage over those who are uncertain when it comes to scholarships. As I said above, there are a variety of major-based scholarships available. Your school may be the best source of information for you, but you may also run a Google search for “scholarships” and your major. also has a powerful search engine for a variety of majors. You won’t be able to maintain this sort of scholarship if you transfer majors, but at the very least, you’ve secured some financial assistance for one or two years of college.
  • Many on-campus groups, particularly those with a bigger, national presence, will provide scholarships to students pursuing relevant degrees. Look into foreign language clubs, religious organisations (such as Hillel), business associations (AMA, PRSSA), and many more.
  • Officers in the Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC). The ROTC program, which is a terrific option for kids interested in the military, may be known to you. ROTC participants go to college like everyone else, but they also get basic military training and officer training for their chosen branch of duty (minus the Coast Guard). Over the school year, the children engage in regular exercises, and during the summer, they participate in extended training activities. After graduation, you’ll be obliged to serve for three to eight years, depending on your branch of service and the sort of scholarship/program you’re in. The Army ROTC program is by far the most popular, and it covers all four years of schooling. You may also enroll later and have the remaining years of your program paid for.

Scholarship possibilities abound for those who are willing to look for them. Filling out as many applications as possible is the key. You’ll receive a lot of rejections, but the ones you do get will matter a lot. It’s a chore to write essay after essay and fill out form after form, but the result is tangible.


Also, don’t believe that any scholarship is insignificant. For some reason, I used to think that $250 or $500 scholarships weren’t worth my time in school. They could have paid for books, tickets home, a month’s worth of food, and so forth. Don’t pass on any of the money-making chances available!

2. Pick a field of study with a lot of job opportunities and/or a lot of money.

This is, without a doubt, a difficult topic. If you’re not interested in that area of work, going to school to study for a high-paying, in-demand career is probably not the greatest choice. Even if the income is good, you may wind up being completely unhappy, which is just not worth it. The trick is to strike a balance between your passions and your practical employment prospects. My personal journey may be used as a case study.

I knew I wanted to be a pharmacist when I initially began applying to universities. This was for a variety of reasons, none of which had anything to do with genuine enthusiasm for the work. It seemed to be very simple (my high school self assumed it was sitting behind a counter and counting pills), quite lucrative, and had a job placement rate of well over 100% at the time. Isn’t it a win-win-win situation? Turns out, I had a lot of trouble with chemistry in high school, and I concluded I wasn’t cut out to be a pharmacist.

Despite the promising employment possibilities in pharmacy, I would have been unsatisfied with the field. As a result, I changed my major to public relations, which was a blend of business and journalism at my university. Every corporation in the world employs public relations professionals, and the beginning wage was about average, so it felt like a good decision. I didn’t really like the task, but it was enjoyable enough.

At the same time, I was passionate about religious studies and had pondered changing my major. However, I had to face reality. A religious studies degree has very few work opportunities. You’re either a professor, a scholar, or a hybrid of both. That’s all there is to it. You should think about your long-term objectives and if what you’re learning will help you achieve them. Even as a teenager, I knew that my family would be extremely important to me and that I would want to contribute financially when the time came. I also knew I didn’t want to spend numerous post-graduate years pursuing a PhD, which is sometimes necessary for becoming a college professor. To top it off, I wanted to be free to work in whatever place I pleased, but professorships frequently require you to travel where the job is.

So I stuck with public relations and took religious studies courses whenever I could. Sure enough, my public relations degree got me through my first few years out of college and finally led to my being able to pursue something I genuinely like – working for the Art of Manliness. This is not something I could have predicted when I decided to pursue a PR degree. But, with a little hard work and additional hours after a day job I didn’t care for (but that paid the bills), I was able to get precisely where I wanted to be.


Consider earning an education certificate to teach, for example, if your degree doesn’t have outstanding professional prospects (poetry, history, philosophy, etc.). Alternatively, earn a business or IT degree and attend your favorite subjects whenever you can, like I did. You’ll be in a better position for a job after graduation, and if nothing else, you’ll be able to save for a few years before pursuing your passion. You don’t want to sell yourself short, but take some time to consider what you’re studying and if your life objectives and beliefs align with it.

3. Get a job and start putting money aside.

Obviously, the largest portion of your spending while in college will be tuition. However, there are a slew of additional modest costs that you’ll require cash for on a regular basis. This may include things like rent, petrol, parking permits, your morning coffee, and the ability to treat your partner to a nice date again and then. Your living expenditures must be funded somehow, and relying only on loans or your parents isn’t a wise choice. A grown guy is self-sufficient.

Consider taking a job while you’re in school to help cover the price of your living expenses (and to learn about budgeting and saving ideas). Jobs on campus are quite simple to come by for those who look for them. These are excellent choices since your company will almost certainly work around your class schedule, and you will typically avoid having to travel. The truth is that there aren’t many jobs on campus that are really enjoyable. Concessions at sports events, fundraising calls to alumni, cooking chores in the cafeteria, and so forth. These won’t fill you up, but being able to surprise your lady with a good restaurant and a movie (while also covering the cost of driving) is definitely worth it.

I think you should look into becoming a Resident Assistant. I did it for my last two years of college, and despite the fact that I didn’t like it, I was able to get a free room in the dormitories as well as a food plan. I was able to save roughly $7,000 each year as a result of this. In addition to accommodation and board, several institutions provide a monthly stipend. It’s about as well-paying as a student could hope for.

You may argue that you don’t have time for a job, but you almost certainly do. Consider how much time you spend playing video games or on Facebook during your study sessions. Taking up a part-time job, even if it’s just for a few hours a week, will help you study more effectively since you’ll be forced to finish in the time allocated. Begin with a minimal number of hours and gradually increase to as many as you can tolerate. Recognize that your school comes first, and if it begins to slide, reduce your hours. Don’t believe that a few hours a week is insufficient; every little bit helps.


Here are some more money-saving ideas to help you obtain more green in your bank account:

  • Begin a side business. Make use of some of your free time on weekends to professionalize some of the talents you’re gaining at school. Start experimenting with entrepreneurship immediately if you want to be your own boss.
  • Make a budget for yourself and, the most difficult part, stick to it.
  • Take Benjamin Franklin’s advise.
  • Invest on used books. Amazon Marketplace is a gold mine for inexpensive, secondhand textbooks, which you can then resell after you’ve finished with them.
  • Consider skipping the meal plan and cooking for yourself instead.
  • Do you really need a vehicle? Not only is petrol costly, but parking permits are sometimes prohibitively pricey. If your school does not offer transportation, public transit is often free or subsidized for students.
  • Create a checking account if you don’t already have one. You’ll be able to watch your spending and see your money flowing in and out, which will serve as a powerful drive to save more.
  • Benefit from student discounts. Student discounts are available everywhere in college towns. People desire to aid college students in a variety of ways, from theaters to restaurants to department shops. Allow them to do so, and inquire about student discounts everywhere you go.
  • Start drinking black coffee instead of the $5 latte. When I ran out of money my sophomore year, I tried this, and now I prefer drip coffee to any other beverage. For the price of a nice Starbucks latte, a tub of Folgers will last a month.
  • College students’ best buddy is thrift shops. If you search carefully and wait long enough, you may find some great things, even your first interview outfit.
  • For dating evenings, daily bargain sites (Groupon, LivingSocial) are a gold mine. Enjoy a night out at a fraction of the cost. Consider these low-cost dating evenings.
  • There are a slew of other things you may do to save money. Take a look!

If you follow the advice above, you will avoid becoming one of those students who has financial regrets after graduation. You certainly want to have a good time at college, learn new things, and expand your horizons, but you also need to stay grounded in reality. If you don’t, you’ll be in for a lengthy — and possibly unpleasant — learning curve after you have your graduation.

What did you do in college, or what are you doing now, to position yourself for financial success after graduation?



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Frequently Asked Questions

What is your biggest regret in college?

A: That I didnt get out of my bosss office sooner.

What regrets do you have about your college education?

A: I regret not taking more opportunities to ask questions.

What do you do when you regret a college major?

A: I regret that you are wasting your time in college. You should be working on the career of your dreams instead!