How To Survive College When You Are Old

10:30 AM


Greetings! It's Monday, and Kyle and I have some obstacles to tackle, other than the fact that it is Monday. I mentioned in my last post that we had to watch the funds for awhile, well, we sat down last night and really looked at our finances. Guess what guys?! We are pretty broke. Not to worry, we have been skint most of our adult lives thus far, and are quite used to cutting back and living life more frugally. 

I had originally thought that once I had finished school, that life would be a lot easier-I was wrong. Not only are you faced with all of the things that you neglected while you were busy writing term papers, and cramming for exams (all the while putting 40 hours in per week at your measly job as well as commuting to school 2-3 times per week).  You are also slapped with graduation fees, and all of those student loans you have to pay back. And, if you are super lucky like me your car will die shortly after paying off all of your credit cards, leaving you with the choice of either buying another shitty used one to dump money into monthly, or, buying a new one. Life sure is fun, isn't it? 

I figured since Kyle is still in school and as miserable as I was back in 2010-2011 with all of life's demands, and I am busy doing everything else: cooking, cleaning, working, babysitting, trying to do repairs/updates on the house-all while on a budget, I thought I could give a little insight on how to survive college as an adult. 


Plan ahead for everything. I mean everything. Make sure that you have enough time to get from work/home to class, no matter how close your school is to you. You are going to want time to clear your head before sitting down for 1-4 hours, especially if you want time to go over your notes for a test/quiz/exam. This might mean you will have to take a later class, or you might have to work an earlier shift, or vice versa. Mark every test, paper, group project in a planner so you know when it is coming and try to plan less social activities those weeks (if you even have time for that). 

Also, plan ahead when it comes to scheduling classes. Register as soon as possible, and try taking the ones that are harder to get into first so that you are not waiting around an extra semester to graduate when it comes time for that. Tuition tends to rise a little bit each year, so you don't want to waste a semester doing nothing or taking a class you don't need because you can't get into a required course. Apply for financial aide as soon as you can as well. It is easy to forget about those things when you have a mortgage to worry about paying, or reviews coming up at work, but you don't want to be scurrying around for your paperwork the week before classes start. 

Take a campus tour. You might have to sacrifice part of your Saturday, or a weeknight, but this will be worth it. Remember, you are not living in a dorm room on campus, and therefore will have less time to become familiar with the surroundings. Plus, knowing where they keep the coffee is a must. 

Pack food. The number one way to save money. Pack things like cereal bars, fruits and veggies to snack on. If you want something more filling, most campuses have microwaves to heat up soup/leftovers, etc. You will know where they are after you take a campus tour *wink wink*.  


Study! Well, duh. You are going to end up studying whenever you find an extra five minutes. On lunch breaks at work, before and after classes,  even while at the bar with friends (hey, I've been there many-a-time). 

It is going to be hard trying to spend time with friends and family. You are going to miss out on some fun things, some important things, it is just how it goes. One of the best ways to "spend time" with someone, is to bring them along while you study. This only works if the person is really good about not distracting you. Meet a friend for coffee, chat for a few, then do your work. Most people have something that they need to work on quietly as well, or can spend a few hours reading. My brother brought his laptop out once and sat with me while I worked on a term paper, he played a video game. Also a bonus because then someone can watch your stuff for you if you have to pee! 

Get used to coffee. At some point in your 20's, the ability to pull all-nighters becomes a foreign concept to you. You will then have to rely on caffeine, be it coffee, tea, or nasty-ass energy drinks. Proceed with caution. 

Rent! Buying new textbooks is the biggest pain in the ass ever. You can buy used books, and/or rent them if available. Check Craiglist,, and even the library before dropping cash on books. 

Chicago with Kyleface 160

Make friends. This was a really hard one for me, as I can be ridiculously shy around people. It may seem odd when you are close to 30, and there are students in your class barely past 18, but it is worth it. There will come a time when you will have to work/get sick/etc and you will need to borrow notes. You will also be forced to work in a group (regardless of how horrible group work is), so you will be forced to talk to them anyway. Some of the other students might even make a great study partner, and you don't have to worry about feeling creepy and having some young kid at your house, you can meet them at the school. One of my classmates at OCC became such good friends with me, that we stood up in each other's weddings. Another classmate at OU has become one of my closest friends. Besides, you will look loads less creepy just talking to the other students than being the old person who sits in the back saying nothing. 

Say "no". College is hard enough, but saying no to people/obligations is really tough. You will have to miss out on a few birthdays and nights out with friends. You will have to not do the dishes, and get that term paper done. Even if your friends/family are angry with you for a little while, even if you are eating off of napkins for a week, it is not worth failing a class. The biggest way to waste money is to have to drop a class after the refund period, and not only have you wasted precious money, but time as well. 

Also be leery of job promotions. I know it sounds crazy, especially for a broke-ass adult in school, but you really have to see if it is worth it. How much time will have to be invested in this promotion? Is it really worth sacrificing any time you might otherwise need for school? I made this mistake when I was promoted at McDonald's right after high school. It became hard for me to take days off for studying, I had to stay later if the manager covering my shift wasn't on time, often causing me to be late for classes. However, sometimes the promotion might be worth it. Having enough cash to pay for textbooks instead of charging them is never a bad thing. Just proceed with caution. 

Okay, so most of that was common sense, but I think I could have used that when I was in school. In the meantime,  this is what my husband looks like without a book/computer in front of his face. 

Kyle's big day 010

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10 Musings

  1. i often think about going back for my masters and then i freak out for all the reasons you mention here. this is great advice, though!

  2. First of all - we had the finance chat this weekend too and kind of found the same thing. Time to tighten the bootstraps!

    And secondly - those are all good tips about college, whether you're going when you're young or waiting and doing it later!

  3. Oh..such a wake up call! You two do use your ingenuity. That is what I love so much about your blog!

  4. See..this is the book you should write! Maybe it would help pay off some of those bills too. I love your voice in these post. I think many would love your advice about living on a budget in these modern times.

  5. Such an awesome post! I can learn a lot from you. Thanks for doing this!

  6. Sara, that's so true! Oh how the bills pile in after college. It's like where does my paycheck go? LOL Well I'm glad you guys are realistic about everything and are actually dealing with it. Some people don't and get into debt way over their heads. I held onto my car during college until it would run anymore. My Lexus is a 2005 and I'm going to wait until it conks out. LOL There's one girl I know who complained about her astronomical debt, yet had a huge wedding, international honeymoon and is now having a baby. I'm like 0_o!!! These are great tips! Food and Books I could definitely relate too. There are so many options now with books. I had to buy them new and science books were killer. I definitely couldve brought my own food and not wasted money eating out all the time or buying things unnecessarily. Excellent post!

  7. Smart advice. I was 25 when I finished school and I was so glad it was over. Going when you're even older is hard, hard, hard.

  8. Awesome post! Definitely agree with the part about having enough time to clear your mind and unwind. Sometimes I don't feel like I have enough of that.

  9. This is such a perfect guide, Sara - with incredibly invaluable advice. My favorite thing about buying books for school was being able to sell them back at the end of the semester - it was always nice to get a bit of cash in return. :P


  10. This post is great! You did a great job of mapping it out and giving great advice!



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