Chronicles Of A Father With Cents

Simple Life. Personal Finance. Family

Financial Mistakes Part 2 – The College Years

feliphe-schiarolli-445578After reading many bloggers’ financial mistakes on the chain, I discovered that I have more than I identified on my first mistake post.  Therefore I decided to put out more financial mistakes I made, in particular the ones I made during my time in college.

When your college life begins, most are also starting out with their first job.  That means being responsible going to classes, working and handling your money.  And like a lot of working college students, I did not make the best decisions on how to spend my money.  So here are the four financial mistakes I made when I was living the college life:

1. Should have gone to a community college instead of a university

Right after graduating high school, the last place I wanted to start off my college career was at the community college that was right across the street where I attended high school.  With a lot of my high school classmates going to a university or attending one outside the bay area, I did not want to feel like I was one of the students that went to a community college because I was too prideful to go to four year university.  So after being accepted to 2 four year universities, I felt it was a no-brainer to go to either one of them.  I didn’t really care about how much the tuition at that time because I was going to a university.

During my first semester during college, I was talking with a high school classmate that was going to the same university as I did and informed me that one of our other classmates changed his mind from attending a university and instead went a community college.  His plan was to take all the GE (general education) classes their then once he’s done, transfer to a university where he can take classes for his major so he can save a good amount of money in the meantime.  When I heard that, I was thinking what a great plan he had and maybe I should do that too after this first semester.  Instead I liked how college life was going for me and stayed at the university throughout the duration as an undergraduate.

Now after reflecting upon this dreadful decision, I could have saved close to $1000 a semester for 2-3 years by going to a community college.  What could have been financially for me…aghhh!!

2. Paid for a Parking Permit 

Another mistake I really despise.  During my first semester I took the shuttle to campus and it was convenient for me to take because the shuttle pick up was about a ten minute walk to and from my house.  I also got my driver’s license during this time and my dad let me drive our family van wherever I wanted to go.  So being with cool person I thought I was, I signed up for a parking permit the following semester with the parking garage is adjacent to the university. I did it because driving to campus was the cool thing to do right? Well that parking permit costs me $80 a semester and paid for it for the next four years.  Since its two semesters a year at our university I paid $160 a year for four years that equals to $640. What’s even worse is that my house was only a 5-10 minute drive to the university.  I could have either taken that shuttle or just walk to campus at no charge. sebas-ribas-310260

I stopped paying for permit during my last two years at the university (took me six years to get my undergrad degree…more on that the next mistake) since they stopped giving permits and instead charged parking on a daily basis.  Still being the ignorant student I was, I drove to school by parking on the street instead of taking that school shuttle for free.  Well at least it was free parking!

3. Should Have Taken More Classes Each Semester 

At the university I attended, they offered two flat rate tuition charges.  I believe at the time, they charged $700 for taking 6 units and under for the first choice and $1500 for the taking over 6 units for the second choice.  Throughout my whole time there, I only took 15 units (5 classes) twice (two semesters) and all the other times I took 12 units (4 classes).  I should have taken advantage of that flat rate because if I had taken 15 units more often and on occasion 18 units (6 classes), I would have graduated a year or two sooner and would have saved about up to $6K.  I felt at that time that taking five classes was bit much and wanted to coast during college by taking four classes.  Everyone else around me was doing the same and at that rate it took six years to get that undergrad degree so I thought why not be part of the crowd which I unfortunately did.

3. Going to a Private Graduate School

After getting my bachelor’s degree at the university I took a year off from school and planned to comeback to university for graduate school.  But in order for me to qualify for graduate school, I had to pass a test called the GMAT(Graduate Management Admission Test) which assess certain analytical, writing, quantitative, verbal, and reading skills.  I signed up for the test which included a $200 fee.  I did not study nor was I aware that there were prep books and courses no how to take this test.  I went to the testing center with no clue how the format was going to be.  I ended up failing the test badly. cole-keister-291568

Not wanting to pay the $200 fee to take the test again, I looked into other grad schools and ended up finding a private grad school that had their own placement test with no fees.  I took the test and passed on the first try.  I felt relieved that I got into grad school and didn’t really care about the tuition rates since I wouldn’t have to start paying until I graduated.  Man that was not a great decision financially.  After receiving my masters from grad school, I had $40K in student loans and took me a while to pay it off.

If I had to do it again, I would have prepared for that GMAT by either reading prep books from the library or taken a GMAT prep class and I would most likely passed the second time around and went back to the public university for graduate school.  Paying another $200 fee feels like chump change now compared to how much I paid in student loans.  Also, I believe the public university’s tuition rate was close to $2K a semester and I would have most likely paid that off every semester.  Based on the number of classes I would have taken in grad school at the public university I would have paid a grand total of $10K.  That’s only a quarter of what I paid at the private university I attended.  If I did all this, I wouldn’t have paid back student loans and would have gotten the same degree.

Did you make some of the same mistakes I made during your time in college? Any financial mistakes you made during college that you want to share? Feel free to comment


  1. Oh going to private grad school can hurt! That’s one thing I learned in undergrad which is private = not worth it. I had my heart set on state school because… California taxes are expensive and we’re all paying into it. Might as well use it? 🙂

    • I know right! Should have pushed myself more to get into public university by taking the GMAT again. Hurts even more that I didn’t even think of the state taxes we pay goes into the public universities.

  2. I don’t know the difference between Public and private post secondary in US I should have a look at that. Standardized tests suck to prepare for- too bad you didn’t know there were books to prepare you for it. I heard the GMAT is pretty hard.

    • Generally it’s less expensive going to a public university because the state throws in money to help fund the school whereas for private, there all on their own and so to help fund for their school they bump up tuition.
      Yeah I heard GMAT is pretty tough too but I should have at least tried it a second time with more preparation.

  3. I also wished I took the max amount of credits in college, too. I didn’t even realize until halfway through that you could take more than four. I guess that’s what happens when you don’t have someone to help you navigate the college process.

    • I followed friends and classmates that were all doing the same thing, taking four classes a semester. I could have been an outlier and taken more than that. Hanging out with more determined classmates would have helped or talking to a guidance counselor.

  4. My big “college” mistake came in high school. I should have earned college credits my last two years of high school. When I got to college many of my peers had enough credits to be considered sophomores while I came in with 0!

    • You could have had a head start going into college by having those credits at high school. Oh the mistakes we make when we’re at that age. Thanks for stopping by Jason!

  5. Hey Kris!

    I feel like I made the same mistake as you for not taking more courses within a semester, but my situation was a bit different from yours.

    I was aware that I could take up to 6 courses within a semester and I did at the beginning. But I always ended up dropping out of 2-3 because I couldn’t handle the amount of courses. At that time, I felt the need to drop out because I was falling behind and I didn’t want my grades to suffer (combination of not being academically smart and maybe I was too busy having fun w/ friends too haha). So coming from an Asian family, I was probably a disgrace to them 🙁 Oh well, not that it matters anymore now that I’m done lol…

    Thinking back, I really think I could’ve completed at least 5 courses per semester if I really really pushed myself and tried harder — I didn’t think about loans or how much it would impact my finances afterwards. If I had this mentality, it would’ve been a big motivator for me. Lessons learned… hah!

    • Sometimes we don’t think about what we could have been until way after it’s done. I had the same feeling as you, I felt that taking 5 courses would have too much for me and I was more focused on hanging out with friends. But thinking about it now, by pushing and motivating myself, I could have taken five classes per semester and even taking some classes during the summer semester in order to graduate sooner than I did.

  6. When people ask me about going back to school I tell them to do it as quickly and cheaply as possible. Your experience validates that advice–thanks for sharing!

    • No problem Jenny, thanks for stopping by! College is expensive so when you have the opportunity to graduate within 4 years or less, you should take advantage of it. I felt I wasted some money by taking 6 years to get my undergrad degree when I could done it in 4 or maybe less.

  7. To this day I still have very little idea how much each credit was in college. I feel lucky my parents paid for my undergrad tuition + living expenses at a private university across the country. I just wish I had treated it as though it were my own money to get the most value out of it instead of squandering my lucky circumstances

    • Oh wow you were lucky Jing that your parents paid for your tuition and living expenses. I had a part time job during my first semester and my parents wanted to make me feel responsible since I had some money on my own to pay for all of my college expenses

  8. Awesome post! I went a community college and then transferred to Heald years before they shut down. My mistake was not paying attention to my finance classes. Doh!

    • I should have done what you did. Going to community college first is the smart and economical plan when starting your college life. It cuts down a lot on tuition. But being 18, I wanted to fit in with friends by going to a university instead of caring how much more I paid.

  9. ouch, that $30,000 difference between going to public or private school must hurt. Well, we live and learn 🙂 . We all made some crazy mistakes during college years.

    99to1percent recently posted…Our 6 Financial Mistakes and 15 Lessons Learned

    • Definitely! It’s easy to point them out now because back then I didn’t have a high priority to make the right financial decisions, I wanted to have that pride of being in a university instead of a community or being in grad school no matter the cost.

  10. Oh man college finance mistakes where to start! The tough thing about this is that looking back it all seems so obvious. When you are 18 though and all your friends head off to a fancy college you really want to go to. I recommended my brother do community college for the first couple of years and he looked at me like I was crazy. You live and you learn and life is easier the sooner you start to learn!

    • I agree DM, the sooner you learn these financial lessons it will become second nature to take action and make the smart decisions.
      Yeah it feel obvious now that I shouldn’t have made these mistakes but back then I didn’t know any better. The good thing is that I acknowledged and took a lesson from it.

  11. Great post! I never considered going to a community college instead of a university to save money, but it’s such a great idea! I was fortunate that my parents had saved up for my college education and that I won several scholarships, so I didn’t graduate with debt. If I have children, I might encourage them to consider community college (because I’m not really looking forward to paying an arm and a leg for their college education :P).

    • Thanks, and cool of you for stopping by Cyn. Your parents were smart to plan ahead and save up for our education. That’s what I’m doing right now with our son by having a college fund(529) for him. Hopefully this fund will cover most of his college expenses especially if he goes to community college first then a university.

  12. I also unfortunately made the decision to pay for a parking permit each year during college. And I wish I had taken more classes each semester, like you mentioned. But we live and learn.

    Also, I noticed in the sidebar it says you’re currently reading “The Slight Edge” by Jeff Olson – that’s one of my favorite books of all time. Hopefully you find it to be as useful as I did.

    • Thanks for stopping by Zach! I haven’t had time to read lately but got a few minutes last weekend to read the first two chapters. I like the message so far Olson is saying about doing little habits daily will go a long way.

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