I had what I would call a unique undergraduate college experience. It’s a long story but I’ll give you the Cliffs Notes version. Colleges I attended will be green and bold because there are a lot and it can be tough to keep track.

  • I originally wanted to go a big nerd school like Stanford, Columbia, or Washington University in St. Louis.
  • My high school offered “college credit” for certain courses through the University of Missouri St. Louis. I took 8 hours of classes through this program my senior year.
  • My swimming goal in high school was to place 8th or better at state in the 100 breaststroke. I missed the top 8 by 0.05 seconds.
  • I decided I had unfinished swimming business and started looking for schools where I could swim instead of my original choices. I choose Millikin University.
  • Halfway through my first semester, I realized it was too expensive. I transferred to Missouri State University.
  • Halfway through my second semester, my high school swim coach took a job as the college coach at Webster University. I transferred there for my sophomore year.
  • After three semesters of a Math degree at Webster, I decided to do a dual-degree engineering program with Washington University in St. Louis but didn’t have enough prerequisites.
  • While finishing my fourth semester at Webster, I took community college courses at Meramec Community College and St. Louis Community College Florissant Valley to meet the prerequisites for Wash U.
  • I transferred to Washington University in St. Louis to begin my fourth year of college.

That’s definitely confusing. This should make more sense:

Kevin's College Career

The first 3 years were a breeze. Then I got to the nerd school and it was hard.

Here’s the problem: Wash U was hard. Really hard! And not only was it hard, but I didn’t even have anything nice to look at. Let’s just say I don’t expect to see any of the girls in the engineering department at Wash U modeling for Victoria’s Secret anytime soon. I hated being at that stupid school.

After one semester there, I seriously wanted to call it a career. I had enough credits after 3.5 years and seven different schools to graduate from Webster with my Math degree. It wasn’t like I’d just be dropping out of college without earning my diploma. I had to decide whether I wanted to call it quits and get out with just a Math degree from Webster or tough it out for another three semesters and get my Engineering degree from Washington University in St. Louis as well.

I’m not the type of person to bother friends and family with my own problems, but this was such a difficult and important decision that I had to reach out to those people who love me and get some advice. I was only 21 at the time, which meant I was four years away from knowing EVERYTHING like I do today.

I talked to a lot of my family members who had already graduated college. Some were already very successful in the business world; one was a stay at home mom. However, no matter who I talked to, they all told me to stay in school and get my degree from Wash U. Nerd schools may be challenging and short on hot women, but they are darned good for finding a job when you graduate.

I took their advice, stayed at Wash U, met some of my best friends and had multiple job offers coming out of school despite the economy entering a recession. I have no idea if it was the “right” decision since I don’t know what would have happened if I chose a different route, but I am certain that I’m very happy to be where I am today. I have a great job and am in a very comfortable financial situation because of the doors that were opened to me as a proud Washington University alumnus.

I’m sharing this story not because I think you should go to a top 15 US News University. There are very successful people from every college and just as many who have no higher education. It is the decision making process that was important. I was too frustrated with my difficult courses and struggle to find friends to realize the how great the opportunity was for me at Wash U. I had to get some outside perspective to truly understand the situation.

When have you had to make a big decision and used advice from trusted friends and family? Did the advice work as well for you as it did for me?

*Note: All stories this week are about why I’m not qualified to give you professional financial advice while I am qualified to make you laugh while I give my financial perspective that’s generally pretty good.