Five Sure-Fire Ways to Fail at College

By Beth Dumbauld

It may not be easy, but it is certainly possible for a motivated, committed individual, intent on going to college, to not make it to graduation. Instead of leaving college with a degree and a foot firmly planted along his or her desired career path, this well intended student can wind up with high levels of stress, a pile of student loan debt, and loads of resentment towards how good intentions (going to college) can go so bad.

This does not have to be your story.

For those individuals looking to obtain a college degree, diploma in hand, as well as taking the time to enjoy the college experience along the way, read ahead. Learn how to flourish with your college choices, not fail. Truly, there are many paths leading you towards becoming a successful student and realizing your goal to be a college graduate. No matter what route you take along the college path, engaging coursework, inspiring teachers, and a degree can propel you into the life and career of your own making.

Mistake #1: Pay more in tuition than you can afford or ever dream of paying back.

College costs vary considerably between institutions and type of program. In some cases, a public college may make more sense than a private. For other students a four-year degree is required to be considered for certain career fields, whereas in other cases, a two-year degree is an acceptable educational requirement to get your leg in the door. For others still, taking college courses at one institution like a community college or a distance learning provider and then transferring those credits to an accredited university may make the most financial sense.

Some students like the benefits of a traditional campus; others need the flexibility of an online institution. Know your educational goals. They aren’t going to be the same for every kind of student. You are unique. Take time to find the best institution to fit your needs -- and budget.

As you do your research, here are some average college costs to keep in mind:

  1. Public four-year colleges charge, on average, $7,605 per year in tuition and fees for in-state students. The average surcharge for full-time out-of-state students at these institutions is $11,990.
  2. Private nonprofit four-year colleges charge, on average, $27,293 per year in tuition and fees.
  3. Public two-year colleges charge, on average, $2,713 per year in tuition and fees.1

Of course, you may qualify for different types of financial aid depending on your college choice and financial situation. But the financial facts show the average college student completes their degree with sizable student loan debt. According to, the median school loan debt among graduating Bachelor’s degree recipients at 4-year undergraduate schools was $19,999 in 2007-2008. Twenty five percent borrowed $30,536 or more, and one tenth borrowed $44,668 or more.2 Be realistic about what you can afford to pay for college, and upon graduation, what you can afford to pay back. The median salary earned by college graduates in their first job is $30,000, and during the recession year of 2009-2010, it was $27,000.3

1 College Board, What it Costs to Go to College, 2011

2 FinAid, Student Loans, 2011

3 Godofsky, Zukin & Van Horn, Work Trends, Unfulfilled Expectations: Recent College Graduates Struggle in a Troubled Economy, May 2011, p.3

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