Friday, April 27, 2012

Lost Wages Due to Delayed Graduation

The above chart illustrates that time is money.  The idea is that you are losing out on wages for every additional year needed to complete your degree.  The longer you take to complete your degree the more you are holding back your career and many of your later financial goals.  If you are borrowing money (as most are) to pay for college, then your student debt will be higher the longer it takes.

When you complete your degree, you begin a slow upward march up the pay scale.   As your experiences increases, you become more valuable in the job market.  

I know retirement seems a long way off, but many companies have retirement benefits. By completing your degree one year earlier, you are seriously compounding your retirement benefits and reducing your retirement age. 

Regardless of your feelings about marriage and children at this point in life, there is a good chance this will become more important later.   Let’s do some math: Assuming it takes seven years to get the degree, three years to get yourself set financially and get married, and another two years to have children; you would be 30.  Now it’s possible to have children at 30, it’s just harder.  According to Sara Rosenthal in her book, The Fertility Sourcebook  at age 25 there is a 78% likelihood of getting pregnant but by age 30 it drops to 63%, and by age 35 it is down to 52%.  

Most college bound people have been taught to hold off on children until the career is set and that is sound advice.  I would just add that you need to make sure that you don't extend the education aspect of your career/education/family timeline.
Life needs to be done in order, but it also needs to be done with purpose.  There is a window of opportunity where getting a college degree is the easiest.  The longer you wait to finish your degree, the more likely you will be handling increased responsibilities while going to school.  It just gets harder over time. Get it done quickly, so you can move on to other areas of your life (Proverbs 24:27).  This is the golden rule of college: The longer it takes the more likely you will drop out. 

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

The Price of Joy

Yoked Bulls Image by Teodoro S Gruh

Matthew 11:28-30
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

1 Corinthians 9:19
Though I am free and belong to no one, I have made myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible.

When we accept Jesus as both our Lord and Savior we are saved (1 John 5:12).   At that moment the Holy Spirit comes into our hearts (1 Cor.9:19) and our obedience to the Holy Spirit’s leading brings about many benefits. One of these is Joy (Gal 5:22).  Joy can also flow as a result of spreading the Gospel and seeing people come to a saving faith in Christ (1Thess. 2:19).

When we are disobedient, the Holy Spirit does not leave (Eph. 4:30), rather we become more likely to sin (Gal 5:16).  A Christian who continues to sin becomes enmeshed in an ever downward sloping spiral of sin that consumes them and everyone around them.  At this point a Christian looks a lot like any other person walking this earth. For more on this condition, check Here.   We must choose to submit to the burdens of following God.   There will be a burden, but there will also be joy.

This post is part of the April Blog Chain on the topic “Joy.”  Check out all the Joy posts by clicking on the sidebar links.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Time Value of a Full Schedule

Photo by Jiri Holden
Here’s a crazy question, if you knew you would burn out of college in six years what level of education would set as your goal?   Would you go for a masters degree, or set your sights lower for a bachelors degree?  It is technically possible in the time frame allotted to get the masters, but if you spin your wheels you could accomplish far less.  

A typical bachelors degree takes about 40 courses to complete and should be doable in four years regardless of the statistics on the average time to completion.  It is very common to switch majors in college, so people tend to take longer.  Mental effort up front to really decide where you want to go will save you years of extra work and debt.
Taking 18 units (6 classes) in a traditional semester schedule often has the same cost as 15 units (5 classes).  Finding enough study time is the limiting factor, because for every hour you sit in the classroom you also need to put in another couple of hours studying.  Taking a “soft” schedule to ease into college is not a good idea because of the value of time involved in doing college courses.  

People often warn kids to ease into their courses in order to get a feel for college, but you will have plenty of time to study if you correctly manage your time.  It will take 4 years if you take 5 classes each semester. If you load up on classes during summer, you can cut out a whole semester.  However if you take one less class (4) each semester, it will take 5 years. 3 classes will extend you to 7 years!

Last year I had a meeting at a nearby community college, and when I step on campus I expect to see ex-students, but that time I saw a student who had graduated six years ago! This is an extreme case, but it illustrates some serious issues.  I believe you want to succeed, but you will have to work hard to keep making progress towards your goal of getting your degree.  There are many things that can slow you down, so you must make getting the degree done quickly a priority.  

Time is money.  You do not have the luxury to keep switching your major over and over as others do.  When scheduling classes make sure everything you take has a purpose in getting you closer to your degree.  When you go to a buffet, you cannot eat everything because there are too many choices and there is only so much space in your tummy.  

You will find lots of really cool classes that do not fit into your major, and each excess class represents an increasing threat to your likelihood of finishing.  If you determine that you are not cut out for a particular degree, switch quickly to minimize the time consequences of switching majors.  The further you progress, the more classes you will probably have to do to satisfy the requirements for the new major.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Visiting a Professor During Office Hours

Office hours represent an amazing opportunity to get to know your professors, and to get one-on-one help from the person who creates the tests.  Don’t screw this up by wasting their time by asking things that are clearly spelled out in the book.  When you arrive with relevant, challenging questions you send the message that you are for real.  

Professors hold a lot of power, and you will need a couple of them in your corner.  They make great references for jobs and graduate school.  They often have an inside line on research positions, internships, as well as jobs.  Many adjunct professors run businesses and the class is their sideline gig.  What this means is that they often troll their classes for hard working, brilliant employees who won’t cost them that much money.  

A final note about study groups is that while you are socializing to some extent it isn’t the sole purpose of the group.  Many groups get carried away and do nothing but socialize.  Don’t let socialization get carried away by respectfully redirecting the group back to work.  There is a balance that you need to be aware of and groups do need a certain amount of socialization in order to work effectively.  Practice getting the work done before you kick back and chat.  Not all study is quality study time, so if you are getting nowhere, be willing to call it a day.   There are many college tasks such as writing or reading that you cannot do in groups, so if there is no reason to meet then don’t. 

Some classes are easy and don’t require much study, so there is no need for a study group.  Use your best sense and after awhile you will know when they are needed.  You may occasionally get one of those “show up and argue” classes, and for these classes, you need to read the material and be ready to share your point of view.   Not much study beyond reading and preparing statements are needed, so put the time into your more difficult classes.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Study Skills

The transition into new life phases can be startling.   Each phase requires new things out of you and you must adapt to the new phase by transforming yourself.  You will not have success in college if you go about it in the same way you did high school.  There is much less hand holding in college and there are fewer margins for error.  You will need to produce challenging work much faster.  You will be utilizing critical thinking skills more often, where you will need to more often explain why and how as opposed to what.  Later you will find a similar transformational change required of you once you embark upon your career.    You can do this, I’m just asking you to mentally brace yourself for the onslaught.  When it comes, work at it furiously (James 5:11) (2 Timothy 1:7).
Reading is different than study, but I find it amazing how people try to pass classes in college without reading much less studying. Notice how I separated reading from study because they are different activities.  Don’t waste time studying useless information.  Study in the specific sense is the intense work to get the right information into your brain.  In college, you are expected to arrive with your reading complete BEFORE the professor does the lecture on the topic.  You need to actually do this.  The idea is that you essentially teach yourself the material so that you can focus on the more challenging aspects of the material to be presented by the professor.  The Cornell Note system works well here.  Read the material, make your notes and write out preliminary questions you need answered during the lecture.  Some professors respond well to questions in class while some don’t.  If the class is done in a lecture hall, then questions tend to be less appropriate.  If you find it impractical to get your questions answered immediately, then do some book research to fill in holes.  Study groups are excellent in filling holes also.  All professors hold office hours and work with students one on one, just check your syllabus to find their office hours, otherwise ask.