community college survival guide

do not go into debt without a very specific plan about how you are going to use your degree to pay off that debt.

This sounds shitty because it’s basically saying “only rich kids can go spend 4 years in pretty brick buildings studying classics”, but guess what? While no one will stop you up front from doing this if your family doesn’t have the money–loans will be made available, departments don’t meaningfully limit admission–you had better believe you will be punished for it later.

Do not assume you can get a degree with loans and “figure it out later”. Maybe this is what your parents did, but costs were very different then.

Assume everyone at your educational institution is incentivized to lie to you to make your future sound rosier than it is. Assume that even when they don’t mean to lie, any “examples” that aren’t comprehensive data are misleading1.

Information specific to your program at your institution is the most valuable. The second-most valuable is major-specific, like this stuff. Consider unemployment rates, but also underemployment rates. Make sure you know the employment outlook of someone with only a four-year degree if that’s what you’re going for; many majors require further study to make you employable.

If you plan to pursue something competitive, make sure you know the magnitude of the competition and have a fallback plan.

There is no shame in a day job. There is no shame in pursuing a degree that “doesn’t make money” gradually over time as you can afford it. There is no shame in self-study and nontraditional paths into industries.

from Beware survivorship bias in advice on science careers:

A major flaw in much scientific and academic career advice is survivorship bias. This is a common logical error, involving drawing conclusions based on those who have ‘survived’ a process — and are thus more visible than those who did not. In the case of science careers advice, the bias arises because those who manage to stick to their chosen career path are there to advise the next generation of researchers on how to stay in their field.

  1. Do graduates of the program come back to speak to students? That’s nice. Are they really representative? Does the program have people who ended up having to get jobs unrelated to their credentials? I bet they’re not coming back to speak there, huh. Do the people who run the program even have data on how many of their graduates get jobs? Good jobs? When they give you their impression of students’ prospects, exactly what is it based on?