Dear Bright-Eyed, 18-Year-Old, College Freshman Me,
If I could go back and tell you one thing, it would be this: take all those little steps!
“What do you mean, ‘take all those little steps?’” you ask? I mean go with your gut and take little steps toward things that will ultimately benefit you so much in the future. From a successful future career to saving up some money, the biggest accomplishments in life are built from dozens (if not hundreds, or thousands) of little steps.
Here are three small ways college students can set themselves up for future success … today!
- Grants: For most of my college career, I made the mistake of believing I wasn’t eligible for any grants. I had decent grades but I didn’t feel like there was anything about me that stuck out enough to qualify me for anything. Finally in my junior year I applied for a few grants on a whim. Boy, was it worth it! For my remaining semesters I received grants that helped me and my family out a lot. So seriously, don’t knock it till you try it – go apply for some grants even if you don’t think you’ll get one. It’s a small step that can seriously pay off. Those student loans can be pretty high at the end of your four years, and the grants can help keep that number down. Earnest actually inspired this post and they also can help keep your student loans down with their refinancing service.
- Internships: The key to landing a successful job post-college is experience, and the best way to get experience is through internships. I managed to land five amazing internships during school and it helped me land my current web marketing job. I don’t consider myself a super outgoing go-getter but you know what? It’s those little steps that will lead you in this promising direction. Take the risk, apply for an internship (or two … or six). It might take you an hour to fill out the applications and prompts, but you truly never know what lies in your future if you just try.
- Savings: OK, this one is I can’t stress enough the importance to sock away 10% of your take-home pay into a savings account – more specifically, a savings account you won’t touch. Even if you’re only saving a few dollars here and there, it truly adds up (take it from me, in college I worked in the fast food industry!). Years ago I started saving 10% of everything I brought home and now almost a decade later I am paying for my wedding with that hard-earned money. THAT’S how much you can save. (Insider tip: When you stash away 10% of your paycheck, it doesn’t even feel like you’re “missing” that much money! And trust me, it’s so worth it when you pay for things in cash because you can and avoid racking up your credit cards.)
So, younger self, I know I can’t go back and change the past but I can hope that future me continues to live by this letter and make the most of her opportunities. Go forth, embrace risk and take all those little steps!
Your Much Wiser, Almost A Decade Older Self