HOW TO MAKE YOUR COLLEGE EDUCATION A "BARGAIN": "Just remember that these four years go by even faster than high school, and they will be the most expensive and important years to build your future--use them all to your advantage.".

Author:Crowley, Stephanie

WHEN MY SECOND child prepared to head off to the four most-expensive years of her life, I made notes I thought I would share after paying two years of education for my first child who attended a very high-end school.

Each freshman needs to remember his or her most-important job: learn. Yes, college should be "fun" and a huge growth experience, but you are spending an enormous amount of your/your parents/your grandparents/scholarship/grant money. Use it wisely. If you are paying your "dream" school thousands upon thousands of dollars, you should get your money's worth... right down to the last dime.

Find a Financial Aid Office contact. Get to know someone in the office personally. When the head of Financial Aid reviews your application, not even the government can change his or her decision. Financial Aid officers know all the insights, and all the benefits you can receive. Everyone needs a contact in this office. These people determine your bill.

Meet your advisor. This should take place as soon as possible. Advisors need a lot of information to direct you on the correct path. They have seen their graduates head off to many different jobs. They know key people on staff. Make them work for your education.

Key professors. As you excel in certain classes, reach out to the professors and ensure they get to know you. Once you distance yourself from high school activities, coaches, and hometown contacts, your professors will fill those roles as references for your first job.

Use office hours. At my son's school, there were no classes from noon- l :30 p.m. on Wednesdays. That is open office time. F2ch professor is in his or her office with the door open, waiting for you to come visit, chat, ask questions, get extra help. Use this time. Professors cannot possibly get to know students in a huge hall--not until junior year will your class size drop to the standard "classroom." Go meet instructors face to face, so when you ask to use them as a reference, they gladly will agree.

Career Services. Every school has a Career Services Department. I personally met an employee from my son's school at a swim meet in my hometown. I asked her to send my son an email encouraging him to visit her in the Career Services Department. He never made it. That summer we struggled for a meaningful internship. That is their job. They have the contacts --and not just at your school. They most likely have students workinglmteming in your area They are a key source. They can...

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