Who doesn’t have regrets about college?  From changing majors halfway through your program, to taking 10 years to get a degree, to racking up mountains of debt, everyone has something they wish they had done differently.

I know I do!

When it comes to higher education, my husband and I did a lot of stuff wrong.  But we also did a lot of stuff right.

Read on for our own fails, wins, and regrets.  Hopefully you can learn from our mistakes and victories.

Fail #1: Going to a “design school”

I decided in high school that I wanted to be an interior designer. So I took every design class offered by my school and did a year-long internship with two local interior design companies.  I wanted to make sure I got into a “prestigious” school…and I had my eye on a specific one:  The Fashion Insitute of Design and Merchandising, or FIDM.

What I didn’t realize was how insanely expensive this hip design school would be.  My dad’s life insurance ensured that my mom had more than enough to cover the cost, but I regret that she spent $24,000 every 4 months for me to attend FIDM.  Especially since I decided I wanted to do something different after completing only 1 year of the 2 year Associate Degree program.

Even if I had gone through with getting my degree in design, this school would have been a poor choice.  Interior design is one of those industries where it matters more which associations you belong to, rather than which degree you have.  I probably should have just gone to a design program at a state school.  Or, maybe if I had gotten a job with a firm where I could have grown, I could have skipped school altogether.  I don’t think that’s the right choice for everyone or every career path, but in my case, it probably would have saved my mom a lot of money and saved me a lot of time.

Fail #2: Paying for out-of-state tuition

I am the #1 advocate for people leaving their hometown or home state to go to school.  I think it’s good to get away from your parents and be independent.

However…out-of-state tuition is pricey!  When my husband moved from Utah to California, he had to pay $2,000 for a semester at the local community college.  When he finally recieved California residency, he only paid $600.  That’s a big difference!  And if you go to a university, you can expect it to be WAY more!

So unless you have a full-ride scholarship, maybe consider sticking around your own state.  I’m being a total hypocrite here, because I never would have stayed in Utah, but if you like your state, it’s definitely a way to minimize your costs.  Plus, in many states you can still live hours away from your parents, if you want a little more independence.

Win #1: Going to community college for as long as possible

When my husband moved to California, he missed the admissions deadline for the nearby university.  He decided he would take some general classes at the local community college to get some of his classes over with.

When application time rolled around again, he decided to stay at IVC for as long as he could.  The tuition of $600 a semester was way better than $4,000+.  He completed two years at IVC then moved on to the pricier university, saving us thousands over the long run.

Win #2: NO DEBT

Because we both took *cough* a little longer than usual to get our degrees, we were able to pay for college 100%.  We never took out a single student loan.

I know, I know.  I already admitted that my mommy paid for my expensive design school.  But after I ditched that, I paid for my online school myself.

And yes, my husband’s aunt paid for his first semester at UofU before he moved to California.  But we paid for IVC and UCI with our own money.

So yes, we were lucky to have kind family members.  But ultimately, we paid for 90% of our schooling, and we did so without incurring any debt.  We saved money naturally and always had enough when it came time to pay.  I’m so grateful that we had the means to pay for school as we went.  Debt would have added so much more stress to our life and marriage.

Win #3: Taking classes online, leaving time for a full-time career

After ditching interior design, I decided I should do something more suited to my left brain personality.  I picked accounting because it was like a business degree with math.  Win win.  After I decided on that, I wanted to get started right away.  The problem was, most schools were about 2 weeks into a new semester.  I started to look at online schools to see if there were any that I could start right away.  That’s when I found Penn Foster College and started my path to an Associate degree in accounting.

This is definitely not an option for everyone.  But if you are a person who can be self-motivated, I highly recommend online classes.  When I was motivated, I could pump out school at my own pace, which I loved.  The problem was, the way the Penn Foster program works, I could also just sit on my hands for months at a time if I wanted to.  I could potentially have gotten my Associate degree in a little over a year, but instead, it took me SIX YEARS.

Yes, I was working full-time for most of those six years, which is partly why we were able to put my husband through a Bachelors program debt-free.  However, my husband was also going to school and working full-time so…I don’t really have an excuse.   But ultimately, I’m really glad I earned my degree this way, regrets aside.

You should also know that you will pay a “convenience tax” of sorts.  Online colleges or universities tend to have less expensive tuitions than traditional universities, but they are definitely more expensive than community colleges.  Check out your options and see what will work for you.

Regret #1: Not earning my Associate degree in high school

This is not only the #1 regret of this list, but possibly the #1 regret of my life.

If your high school offers concurrent enrollment (or dual enrollment/credit) classes, you should absolutely sign up.  Concurrent enrollment classes allow you to take advanced high school classes that will count for high school credit AND college credit.  There were enough opportunities at my school that I could have graduated high school with my Associate degree.  In fact, some of my friends did.  And they started off adult life 2 years ahead of everyone.

If you or anyone you know has this option, absolutely take advantage!

Regret #2: Not taking advantage of scholarships

If you aren’t able to get a scholarship from your desired school, look online at places like FastWeb to find general scholarships.  And if you belong to any ethnic group, religion, etc. there is probably a scholarship for you.  I wish I had applied for more free money!

Well there you have it.  I hope that my mistakes and wins can help you BEFORE you make you own mistakes.  Or, I hope it can help parents help their own kids make the right choices.  College tuition will be one of the biggest costs of your lifetime, so make sure you find as many hacks as possible!

What are your plans for college?

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