College Regrets Are Really Common. Here’s Some Tips to Help You Avoid Them

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College regrets
Students walk into Plant Hall at the University of Tampa in Tampa, Fla. Tina Russell/ The Penny Hoarder

Being young is the time to make mistakes.

At least, that’s what they say. (The Type-A side of me strives for perfection and would like to avoid making mistakes at all costs.)

But I will say early adulthood is generally characterized by taking risks and “following your heart” before settling down into the seriousness of really adulting.

And yet, so many big choices are made during this time, like choosing a college and a career path.

College Regrets… We’ve Had a Few

A recent report by Gallup and Strada Education Network found that 51% of nearly 90,000 former college students said they would change their major, college choice or type of degree they received if they could have a do-over.

Choice of major was the biggest regret. Thirty-six percent wished they would have chosen a different field of study, while 28% would have selected a different college and 12% would have picked a different level of degree.

Yet four out of five respondents who earned a degree or completed a credential program said they received a high-quality education.

College can be awesome, but if you’re a student or about to enroll, now is the time to start thinking about how the decisions you make will impact your life in the long run.

Research, Research, Research

Whether you’re deciding what college you want to attend or which field of study you want to pick for your major, it’s important to do your due diligence.

The College Board’s Big Future site is a great resource to learn more about the schools you’re interested in. You can use their interactive guide to help narrow down which colleges may be the right fit for you.

You can also get info on college majors and careers.

U.S. News and World Report annually ranks the top colleges and universities in the nation and has comprehensive data on each one. There are also rankings on schools based on region, major and other categories.

When choosing your major, it’s important to consider the career outlooks for your field. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics provides data and statistics on just about every career path you can think of. You’ll be able to find out which careers are growing and which pay more than others.

Get a Taste for the Real World

While research is wonderful, all the research in the world can’t make up for real-world experience.

If you can, take advantage of college tours before enrolling in one school. Ask tons of questions.

In college, make sure to score internships in your chosen field to give you a glimpse of what your post-college life could look like.

Choose a mentor, or mentors, who are doing the thing you’ll want to do someday. Grill them about what their career has been like. If possible, ask to shadow them for a day.  

The bottom line is college is a huge investment, and the decisions you make can have long-lasting results. You don’t want to have regrets.

Nicole Dow is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder. She graduated from Hampton University (go HU!!) and absolutely loved her college experience. Aside from student loan debt, she has zero regrets.