College: No really, it’s full-time

I wish high schools and colleges would do a better job explaining to students why we call a five class schedule in college “full-time”. Many students believe that when they leave high school to transition to college that full-time education is over. I can understand why they believe this. Generally, high school is five days-a-week, while college is generally two or three days.

I have seen so many students perform poorly because they are not prepared for the transition to more independent learning. Some students see the limited class schedule and believe that they won’t have to work as hard before they are only in class a few hours a week. Others see all that free time and fill it with work or other activities. I have seen a number of students working full-time and taking a full-time course load.

When entering college, students must be realistic about their study schedules and how much time this is really going to take. For every course, professors generally plan that for every hour a student is in class, the student should spend 2 to 3 hours outside of class. This outside time is comprised of reading, homework and studying the material. We generally do not include projects or papers in this estimate. So for your average three credit course which meets two and a half hours a week, a student should expect to spend five to seven and a half hours a week outside the class.

When you include attending class, students should be spending seven to ten hours per week, per course. Taking five courses, that’s 35 to 40 hours a week. When you start adding work schedules to this, it’s easy to see why students are stressed, especially when trying to work full-time while going to school full-time.

So why am I putting this post on a blog about saving money? Every time a student takes a course and performs badly, having to take the course again, the student is wasting money. When courses cost at least $1,500 each, that’s a lot of money to lose. Also, I’ve seen a number of students taking on too much and seeing their GPA suffer. A poor GPA will make it more difficult to get a good job or even get a job at all after graduation.

I understand that most students must work while in college, some having to work full-time to make ends meet. When that is the case, consider how much time you can really devote to college and take a schedule that is realistic. While it will take longer to graduate on a part-time basis, it will take just as long to complete a degree when you have to drop courses each semester because you don’t have the time to do well.

If you have a student planning to go to college in the fall or a student who is currently in a college, talk to him or her about time constraints and expectations. We all must do what we can to help the students in our lives succeed.

Back-to-college shopping? Think life insurance

A few weeks ago, I read in article in the Wall Street Journal about a family who lost their 25 year old son in an accident but were still wrestling with his student loan debt cause they had cosigned on his loans. In addition to the pain of losing their son, they were all working extra jobs to try to keep up with the loan payments. While no one wants to think about something like this happening in their family, it is important to plan for the worst and hope for the best.

If you have a student preparing to go back to college and have cosigned for student loan debt or have taken out parent loans, please consider getting life insurance on the student. A term policy on a college student is extremely inexpensive and can cover all the costs of loan repayment should something happen. Reading that story just broke my heart. Grieving the loss of a child is hard enough but to be remembered of that loss every time you have to make a student loan payment; I can’t even imagine what that poor family is going through.

Make sure you shop around for life insurance. Many student loan providers will offer you life insurance in conjunction with the loan. This is generally not a very good deal. You will most likely do much better on the market.