University life can come as a shock to many. After all, it is the first time that many of us experience anything similar to true independence. For those of you that already know how to set yourself up for success at university, and how to manage your money before you get there! However, the sad truth is that we are often not taught how to live independently in high school, and it comes as a shock to most when they have to work for the money they use. To help educate my fellow high-schoolers on how to prepare yourself for university, I have put together a list of do’s and don’ts for financial success at university.
1. Start Early!
There are two major factors that can help you during your time at university:
Whenever you can, be sure to start volunteering. Usually, you can start volunteering before you can make money, so be sure to start there. It honestly doesn’t matter where you start. If you volunteer at a local soup kitchen, you will not be making money, but you get invaluable experience in addition to doing a great deed. For example, I have volunteered at TIFF for almost a year now, and while I am not trying to get a paid position there, the experience that I have gotten will help me when I apply for other paid positions. Volunteer experience can help you stand out from other candidates when you apply for a paid job. They are also more abundant (and more fun) for younger ages and are still a great way to set you up for your ideal summer job when you are about to go to university.
A Group of Young Volunteers in Sheffield, UK (Image Source: Sheffield Futures)
2. Don’t Forget the Prerequisites…
Before you become eligible for a paid position, you should have a list of summer jobs you might want to work when you are old enough. For example, I want to be a lifeguard or an intern at a software company. After you create this list, look into the organizations that you could work with.
Let’s say I found two pools I might want to work at and three software companies in my area. I have already narrowed it down to five establishments. Their websites should be able to tell you the prerequisites necessary for the job, as well as others who work there. For example, you have to complete the Bronze Cross before you become a lifeguard at the minimum age of 16. By finding out who works there, you can develop relationships with people you want to work with at an early stage in your life. They can help you out in getting the position by referring you to others, or giving you opportunities to shadow them for a day. It is a good idea to shadow people because it can help you determine whether the job is best for you. Worst case scenario, you connect with some pretty awesome people and have the chance to build on those professional relationships in the future!
3. Be Eager — Don’t Wait!
When it is time to get the summer job, don’t wait. For most jobs, one would have to be 16 years old. This means that most people only have two summers to work and pay for as much of university as possible. Maximize that time. I know it is awesome to spend a summer at camp, but it is also important to prioritize what happens in your summer. If you can get a year-round position, that is even better, so long as your grades aren’t slipping!
4. Jobs Are Awesome — Even at University
The previous steps are meant to help you prepare the necessary skills for a well-balanced life by using and earning money safely. I am not telling you to earn all of your money in high-school so you don’t have to work in university. I am saying that it is important to recognize which financial barriers you have to cross and prepare for them well in advance. Even if you don’t need the money, the experiences you gain from jobs can be invaluable (if you pick the right ones)! Jobs can be great to have at university because they keep you busy and and can push you to manage your time effectively. As well, if you show your employer at university all the experience and jobs you have worked in high school, it is very hard to get turned down!
Typically, I try to invest about 15% of the money I make into new technologies. Now, this number may differ from person to person, but I strongly recommend investing a little bit of your money into stocks. I am not telling you to blindly throw away your money at what seems to make money. I am saying you should research the newest startups with the biggest potential. You not only get an incredible array knowledge of what the future holds, but shares are cheaper as well! With enough research and care for your money, investing becomes a lot easier. For example, one of my friends invested in Etherium a few weeks ago when it was $30 because he did his research and predicted it would increase dramatically within the next month. Sure enough, in about a month, Etherium cost about $90.
Image Source: Miles Weekly
I want to conclude by emphasizing that it is never too late to start. If you have haven’t been volunteering or working, it is never too late to fill out the applications and see where you end up. At the end of the day, everyone has a different story about their experience in transitioning from high school to university, and while I believe that I am doing the best thing to prepare me for university, the key ingredient is balance. Whether in school, in finances, or in life — it is balance that keeps people happy, it is balance that keeps them determined, and it is balance that helps them find their own path in life.