Money Management Workbook for College StudentsMoney Management Workbook for College Students
Larry Burkett
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This paperback workbook offers practical guidance on how to manage your finances, use credit cards wisely, balance your checkbook, obtain college loans and more. Its easy-to-understand worksheets show you how to extend your cash flow, prepare for the future and get the assurance you need to escape financial bondage.
     

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CHAPTER 1
College Career Guidance

Choosing a college and an appropriate major are important decisions with lasting financial implications. Frequently students feel stuck—not knowing where to turn or how to choose. Coupled with pressure from family, peers, and even the school, many blindly select a college and a major without praying about it first or without the benefit of a well-thought-out process. Often these impulsive choices result in changing majors, or schools, which can be very expensive.

Changing majors in college favorably compares to switching lines at the grocery store. You’re free to make the switch, but you lose your position in line and generally have to start at the end of another line. How much wiser it is to make an informed choice in the first place.

To understand the process of choosing a college major, think of your four-year undergraduate studies in two phases. Phase one usually covers your first two years of studies and is heavily loaded with foundational courses that everyone has to take, regardless of their majors. These include classes in English, history, and mathematics. Phase two typically begins with your junior year, when most schools insist that you declare a college major field of study. Declaring your major narrows the focus of your studies and leads to a bachelors degree in a major area that usually relates to a specific career field. For instance, although a pre-med major and pre-law major will have the same required foundational courses in their first two years, their courses in the last two years of college will vary greatly. In the same way, courses for someone preparing to teach will be vastly different from someone preparing for a degree in veterinary science.

Suppose, at the end of a business major’s junior year, he or she decides to switch majors to an education degree. Most of that student’s junior year courses, preparing him or her for business studies, will not count toward a degree in education; therefore, the course credits are lost. Losing time and credits can be quite expensive, as seen in the example below.

As a result of changing majors twice during his undergraduate studies, it took John six years instead of four to obtain his bachelors degree, which resulted in the following impact on his personal finances.

The College Board estimated that the average expense of attending a four-year public college in 1995 was $9,300 per year, including tuition, room and board, books, fees, and incidentals. So John’s two additional years, as a result of changing majors, added another $18,600 to the cost of his four year degree. But wait. There’s more.

To understand the complete picture, you also must calculate the two years of salary that John did not earn because he was in school rather than working. Figuring an arbitrary, but modest, salary of $25,000 per year, John’s extra two years cost him another $50,000 in lost income.

As a result, the total financial impact of his two additional years in college approached $68,600 (the cost of the additional college expenses plus two years of lost income because he was not working). That’s quite a financial swing in a two-year period of time!

So you can see how tarrying in college can be very, very expensive. You’ve heard the saying that the shortest distance between two points is a straight line. Similarly, the shortest distance to graduation is to carefully select your college major. Of course, if you simply hate what you’re studying, a change is both wise and necessary. But, in order to minimize changes, the trick is to accurately select a major in the first place.

How To Choose a College Major

The Life Pathways division of Christian Financial Concepts has helped thousands of high school and college students to select their major fields of study. I have listed below some of the most common mistakes people make in selecting a college major, followed by tips for making a wise choice.

Poor Reasons to Choose a College Major

1. Because the resulting job will make a lot of money.
Although finances are an important consideration in career planning (if not, we’d all be volunteers!), money should not be the sole factor in selecting a major and career. The Life Pathways staff has assisted a number of highly paid professionals, such as doctors, dentists, and attorneys, who weren’t happy in their work because it didn’t match their interests and personality.

2. Because it will lead to a “hot job.”
First of all, a job that’s “hot” today may not match your talents and interests. Second, the hot jobs of today may not be so hot by the time you get your degree, especially if postgraduate work is required. Indeed, one career counselor reported in The Washington Times: “Fifty percent of the jobs that will exist in the year 2005 haven’t even been created yet.”

3. Because it’s the career field your parents specialized in.
It’s likely that you will be more familiar with your parents’ occupational fields than others, but that can’t be the sole reason for choosing that same career track. You are uniquely created by God. What has been great for your parents may not suit you at all.

4. Because that’s what your friends are pursuing.
Although there’s some merit to choosing a college in order to stick with close friends, the selection of a college major must be distinctive to you and your skills, interests, and values. Choosing a major by following the crowd is risky and may prove to be costly further into your academic career.


Wise Steps To Choosing a College Major

1. Wrestle with the purpose of your life.
Have you begun to formulate a mission statement for your life? Have you grappled with God’s purpose for you? Those are profound, soul-searching questions that most people— adults included—struggle to understand. Easy answers to those questions are the exception rather than the rule. Yet, there is great value in the process of hammering out your personal mission statement in life.

2. To clarify your purpose, take inventory of your God-given talents.
Psalm 139:14 states that we are “fearfully and wonderfully made” by God. These unique God-given talents, blended with the particular people or events that have helped to shape us, such as family, educational, and social influences, provide the basis for sound career decisions. In His grace and wisdom, God provides talents, thus equipping us to accomplish His purpose in our lives. As stewards, our responsibility is to discover those talents and utilize them to His glory. You can take a major step toward understanding God’s purpose for your life by discovering your God-given talents. To arrive at a well-rounded understanding of your God-given talents, there are four primary factors to consider.

    a. Your personality. Some enjoy solving people problems; others prefer to solve problems that relate to things, data, or ideas. Some enjoy taking initiative in the work setting; others prefer to follow the lead. Insights into your God-given personality will help you to understand the kinds of work you are best suited for, thus leading to wise choices of college majors and careers.

    b. Your skills. Some naturally work well with their hands; others work best with analytical processes. The competitive edge in the workplace belongs to the person who can match skill development with natural talents.

    c. Vocational interests. People typically excel in their work if their hearts are naturally motivated toward the activities associated with it. Make sure you do something you love. The more vocational interests you discover, the more possibilities you’ll have to choose from. For this reason, it’s wise to spend your high school and early college years just becoming exposed to a variety of occupational fields, thus broadening your base of interests and gaining insights into what you really like and don’t like.

    d. Work priorities and values. Some people place a high priority on working outdoors where they can have lots of fresh air, mobility, and independence, other people value working nine-to-five in a clean, office environment. In addition, core life values, such as achievement, recognition, financial gain, and serving God, compete with one another in your decision-making processes. Can you identify the core values that are influencing your approach to work?

Staying focused on such a self-examination is no easy task. To assist you, Life Pathways offers a comprehensive career assessment that will highlight your personality strengths (and weaknesses), vocational interests, skills, and values. Included in the modest testing fee are helpful support materials, such as the 180-page workbook, Guide to College Majors and Career Choices. For more information about Career Pathways, call the ministries of Christian Financial Concepts at 1-800-722-1976.

3. Consider the high school subject areas you found most appealing.

Another important clue to the selection of your college major can be found in your previous educational experiences. For instance, if you loved journalism and English, carefully review your college catalog for available courses in these areas. On the other hand, if you struggled with these subjects or had a hard time maintaining interest in them, you probably won’t want to pursue a degree in these fields.

After you have considered each of these factors, try to identify a few general career fields in which your personality, interests, skills, and values overlap. With some possibilities in view, determine the college majors that will prepare you for those career fields.

To help you, study the course selections and majors in a college catalog. Is your interest aroused as you read the course descriptions? Consider the skills that will be necessary to succeed both in the college major and in the related career fields. Taking this step may force you to think consistently about your talents, interests, courses of study, and career fields.

In addition to reviewing the college catalog, there are some more steps you can take to match college majors to potential career fields.

  • Talk to college professors or high school teachers in the field.
  • Talk to college seniors who are majoring in the subject.
  • Talk to business professionals (especially members of your church) In the career fields you are considering.
  • Join or visit a campus group related to the career fields you’re interested in.
  • Study professional journals and publications in the library.

    Choosing a College

    After you have selected a major, you can begin the process of choosing your school. The choices number in the thousands, including Christian colleges, community colleges, technical schools, private colleges, and public universities. Your career plans will narrow the list dramatically, and your SATs, GPA, and finances may trim it even more.

  • When evaluating possible choices, take the following factors into account.

    • Academic competitiveness of the school. In light of your scholastic ability, do you stand a good chance of being admitted?
    • Strength in your academic major. Does the school excel in the areas of your academic interests?
    • Urban versus rural. Do you want to attend college in a city or in a rural setting?
    • Proximity to home. How important is it for you to be close to home?
    • Class size. Can you handle university classes with hundreds of students, or will you do better in smaller classes?
    • Cost. What will you realistically be able to afford?
    • Christian versus secular. Can your personal faith withstand the humanistic, politically correct bent of a secular school?
    • Safety. How safe is the school’s campus?
    • Residence. Will you be required to live on campus?
    • Graduate placement. What assistance does the school offer to graduating seniors?
    • Specialty programs. If you are interested in special programs such as ROTC or ties to a special research program, be sure they’re available.
    • Tradition and family ties. Do you have family ties to the school? Did your parents or grandparents graduate from there?
    Although this is not an exhaustive list of factors, it will help you to identify key elements in your selection of schools. Consider also the different types of educational institutions, as well as how each might best serve your purposes. Each has its benefits and disadvantages. The following are a few types for you to think about.

    Types of Schools

    1. State Universities offer a broad range of courses and majors. Unlike many smaller schools, they have strong funding for staff, equipment, and other educational and recreational resources. Larger campuses also offer a diverse mix of social, professional, and religious organizations and groups.

    2. Two-year community colleges offer advantages that aren’t available from other schools. Many students attend to prepare for a career that requires a two-year degree. Others use a community college as a cost effective “proving-ground” before moving on to a four-year college. There they can adjust to college life, improve their grades, work part-time to save money, or delay the step of declaring a major.

    3. Christian colleges can provide a solid education in a Christian environment presented from a Christian worldview. You should strongly consider the lifelong value of having a Christian-based education as you prepare for your life and work. In addition, Christian colleges can offer courses and majors that aren’t available at other schools, such as Christian education, youth ministry, theology, missions, and many others. Some denominationally affiliated schools offer scholarships to students from their churches.

    4. Vocational and technical schools offer diploma programs for a variety of business, industrial, and health-care professions. Students in these programs get valuable, hands-on experience, often with the help of those already working in the field, including those who may consider employing them. Because many of their students are already working or still deciding on a career field, vo-tech schools offer flexible hours, quicker programs, and enrollments staggered throughout the year.

    Grades on a transcript are permanent and will stand as your record of commitment and achievement.

     

    College Decision Checklist

      _____I have taken the SAT/ACT.
      _____I have considered my unique blend of skills, interests, personality traits, and values.
      _____I have discussed my plans with my parents and/or guidance counselor.
      _____I have talked with graduates or friends who have attended the colleges I am considering.
      _____I have explored the majors offered at various schools.
      _____I have investigated different plans for financing my college education and have made a financial plan.
      _____I have taken steps to begin exploring college majors.
      _____I have reviewed college catalogs of several schools I am considering.
      _____I have visited the campus of several colleges I am considering.
      _____I have sent applications for enrollment, official high school or college transcripts, and SAT/ACT scores to the colleges I am considering.
      _____I have determined my living arrangements at college.
      _____I have set GPA goals and made a strong commitment to be a good student in college and thus get the benefits of my education.

     

     
     

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    Excerpted from:
    Money Management for College Students
    Copyright © 1998, Larry Burkett
    Published by Moody Press
    Used by permission. Unauthorized duplication prohibited.