When it comes to the college search, application, and decision processes, prospective college students – as well as parents, families, and counselors – oftentimes find themselves asking the age-old question, “How much does it cost?”
From test-taking and applying to college, to selecting a school and mapping out a plan for the future (and everything in-between), it is nearly impossible to ignore the aspect of cost, especially in a country brimming with concerns of the rising cost of higher education. Perhaps you are a student who feels pressured to decide between colleges, or maybe you need to make a decision about which internship to accept, where to live, how to get there, etc. Money is typically a central aspect of commitments such as these. However, when preparing to take the next steps in their educational careers and making difficult decisions related to the future, students should remember to consider “cost” in not only the literal “money” aspect, but in the sense of time management.
Wasting time ends up being costly in the big picture. For example, waiting until the last minute to submit a scholarship application, or missing a deadline completely, is costly because it may equate to a missed opportunity to gain financial support. Waiting until the week before the ACT/SAT test date to begin practicing problems and strategies is costly in that you minimize your chances of success on the test. As a result, you may have to spend more time (and money) studying for and retaking the test. Even a detail as seemingly-minute as submitting an application after the priority deadline can hurt in the long run, especially if the earlier deadlines offer a less expensive application fee.
Unlike money, it is much harder to know how much time we actually have. Time cannot be spent with a debit card or stowed away in a savings account to be saved for a rainy day. For example, we never truly know how much time we have to complete a project or make a big decision, because even with due dates and deadlines, life is full of surprises, and an unexpected event – good or bad – could cause us to: feel rushed; produce a final product not reflective of our talents, ideas, or ambitions; or even make us feel as though we have to “settle” when making a big decision.
One way for students to adapt a “time is money” approach to their own educational paths is to become involved in organizations and activities that are genuinely meaningful to them. Even with the pressures to have a resume chock-full of leadership positions for every school club ever invented, I believe that our time as students is too limited to waste worrying about adding another “task” to our to-do list. This is where the “quality over quantity” concept comes into play. It is important to spend our time doing things we are passionate about, and that are related to our goals for the future, but it is also possible (and necessary) to allow time for ourselves. Again, time is valuable – so time spent pouring our hearts into a club that has little relevance to our interests or goals could have been spent pursuing another endeavor.
While discussions related to college finances and increased concerns about the rising cost of education are not always the most lively, students should know that they are not alone in feeling worried, confused, or stressed about their decisions. There is no “right” or “wrong” way to succeed educationally, socially, and professionally. Students should spend their time and money on things that matter most to them and the things they believe will most advance their college and professional lives. Education is costly in that it is both time consuming and expensive. However, the long-term value of education stretches far beyond the textbooks and the chalkboards; it provides opportunities and skills for the future, relationships that would not have otherwise been fostered, and enriching experiences that are worth more than any monetary or material value.