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6 Options for College Students To Consider with Respect to the Economy

By: Steve Johnson

1/15/2009 - 25 Comments

How does the recession change the way college students plan their future?

When I was in college, I remember taking an extra class just to finish while the economy was improving and before it took another nose dive.  Timing when you graduation from college is not easy. 

A lot can change between the time you start and when you finish.  I remember taking as much of the federal loans as I could each year even if I didn’t need them because I never knew how much I would be able to get next year – and I didn’t want to run out of money along the way. 

If I was in college today, I would be thinking about how to plan my career with respect to the global recession that may last for several years.  Most of the time, students can plan around a 6-12 month recession, but planning around a 3-10 year recession is not so easy. 

Here are a few options to consider.

  1. Start a business, ask your parents for $5k or use collage loans or credit cards or consider partnering with a few close college friends that have nothing to lose and have a lot of energy to pour into a business. Take advantage of your location on campus and your understanding of how to communicate and market to thousands of young people with money (borrowed) in their pockets. Find out what they need or like and start selling to them. Use the college platform to find people that are interested in a common cause. Organize public speaking events about the hot issues, like politics or religions rights or whatever and then ask these people how you could create a product or service that would help them fight for their cause.  College is perhaps one of the best places to draw an audience of people to discuss their needs and concerns.
  2. Get a job as an intern at a growing small business, working for low pay in exchange for on the job training. Then, either quit and start your own competing business after a few years or move up the ladder.  Sometimes you can even get an intern before you graduate. This is a great way to reserve a job after graduation. Of course, you need to work hard for your employer and get to know as many people there as you can, because your relationships and usefulness will increase your chance of hiring.
  3. Continue going to college, this is perhaps the most risky because you have no idea how long the economic recession is going to take or what jobs will be needed after it's over. You could be paying for training in a career that will not survive the recession. But, if you are close to finishing and your major can be used for multiple careers, then maybe this is your best option.
  4. Change majors, if you can clearly see little hope for a job in your current major. This is usually not very easy, but I can be done and may also keep you in college another year or two while the recession finds a bottom. Another option is to double-major so you have more options when you graduate.  You can also consider changing colleges with a major that is going to be more marketable.
  5. Switch to part time, get a job and reduce your debt before you graduate.  This is a good idea if your debt is growing and your future job prospects are diminishing. This could also keep you in school longer, waiting for the recession to bottom. The risk is that you start a family or a job before you finish and end up never finishing. 
  6. Finish as soon as you can and stop borrowing money. It may be already too late for this as many industries have already stopped hiring or are already laying off.  But, if you are close to finishing and you think you can get a job, go for it.

College planning is a lot of work, trying to line up the classes that you need at the time you need them to graduate when you would like to is a task almost worth pushing on your resume.  During recessions, most students try to find a way to continue going to college. But, this time its going to be more difficult because the credit crisis has dried up many of the college loan options along with other income sources for colleges like, donation, scholarships and research grants.  Even summer jobs are going to be hard to come by. 

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