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Real College Stories

Real-world college advice from real college graduates.

"If you want to know the road ahead, ask those coming back." – Chinese proverb

Have you ever said to yourself, "If I only knew then what I know now"? We certainly have, and that's the reason we've gathered the following real college stories for you. They've all been written by real college graduates and describe their higher education experiences: the good, the bad, the mistakes, and the surprises. While each graduate's story may not exactly reflect your situation, the stories definitely have great lessons and insights applicable to everyone.

Here are a few of the questions that we asked the college graduates to share in their stories below:

  • What do you know about college now that you wished you knew before you attended school?
  • What advice about college would you give future students?
  • Why did you decide to attend college?
  • Why did you choose the major you studied?
  • Do you now have a job related to your field of study? Do you use what you learned in college at your job?
  • How did you pay for college?
Life changing.
"I decided to take all of my classes online...Looking back, this is my biggest regret. Sure, I was able to do schoolwork on my own schedule, but I didn't get any of the socialization that college is supposed to bring. If I could do it again, I would at least take one on-campus class just to add the social aspect to my college experience."
-Rachel M. Certificate in Medical Transcription, Tacoma Community College, 2010
Loved every minute.
"If I were to offer a piece of advice to someone contemplating higher education it would be to do their homework regarding future employment. Obviously there are no guarantees, but knowing what type of education and experience employers are looking for before you choose a program could certainly help you get hired more quickly."
-Tammie B. Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing, Goddard College, 2008
Know your school.
"My advice is to know your school beyond its programs, its classes and its reputation in a field. Beneath every academic exterior, there lies a personality you can't always see through sparkly websites and promotional materials."
-Riley L. Bachelor in Liberal Studies, Middle Tennessee State University, 2006
College opens doors.
"The most difficult part of finding the right school for me was overcoming pervasive negative comments about online schools and programs. Since I knew that I would be moving periodically and needing to stay employed while going to school, an online program sounded perfect for me."
-Fred F. Doctor of Philosophy in Public Health, Walden University, 2008
Long interview for life.
"I went to apply for a sales job at a different cell phone company, after working in that field for 10 years, and they wouldn't even interview me without having a degree. There's a surplus of talented people looking for jobs, and sometimes without a college education you can't even get your foot in the door for an interview."
-John K. Associate of Occupational Science in Manufacturing Technical Systems, Hudson Valley Community College, 2013
Carefully consider costs.
"I cannot stress enough that anyone considering a graduate degree needs to think seriously about whether or not pursuing that degree will help them, and whether that help will be more short-term or long-term."
-Brent F. Masters in Public Policy (concentration in environmental and energy policy), American University, 2011
Expensive but worthwhile.
"While it is a blessing to have so many helpful grants and scholarships available, the convoluted structure of student loans makes it nearly impossible for an 18-year freshman to understand all of the financial complexities of college…. After college, although I worked throughout and received grants, I still ended up with over $30,000 in student loans. I have since been able to pay off a small portion."
-Jamison H.
Bachelor of Science in Business Administration, Sonoma State University, 2012
"If I could go back and do anything differently as far as my education goes, I would have buckled down and done it faster. There were so many semesters that I "took a break." There were times that my military career was so demanding; I just didn't think I could handle school on top of everything else."
-Maggie O. Master in Military History, American Military University, 2011
Enlightening and attainable.
"The FAFSA on the web was very simple to complete and the school helped with all the enrollment paperwork. I recommend that all students spend time talking with an enrollment specialist at the school; it really helped me to understand the process."
-Tracy S.
Associate in Technical Communications, Chattahoochee Technical College, 2012
Ask more questions.
"I'd been led to believe that transferring within the University of California system was a breeze. With my eye on U.C. Irvine, frustration hit like a brick-filled truck for the second time. They told me it was such a rare occurrence it wasn't worth pursuing, and I didn't ask any more questions. Always ask more questions."
-Ashley B.
Bachelor of Fine Arts in Fashion Design, Academy of Art University, 2007
Worth every dime.
"Looking at my college experience in hindsight, one thing I would have done differently is applied to more schools and kept my options open. LDSBC was the only school I applied to, and fortunately I was accepted, but I didn't have a plan B, which wasn't very smart."
-Holly M.
Associate of Applied Science in Interior Design, LDS Business College, 2009
You won't regret it.
"I went into debt about $15,000 to get my degree. However, I am now a superintendent, and I believe my doctorate was a big part of this promotion. With federal student loans, I only have to pay about $150 a month for a degree that has given me knowledge and confidence in the field of education."
-Robert S.
Doctor of Education in Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis,
University of Missouri – Columbia, 2009