The movie Mean Girls is now 10 years old. Back then, its star Lindsay Lohan had yet to possess a criminal and surgical record, and this line became famous…
Where you sit in the cafeteria is crucial, because you got everybody there. You got your freshmen, ROTC guys, preps, JV jocks, Asian nerds, cool Asians, varsity jocks, unfriendly black hotties, girls who eat their feelings, girls who don’t eat anything, desperate wannabes, burnouts, sexually active band geeks, the greatest people you will ever meet, and the worst: Beware of the plastics.
In college, life is simpler. And more expensive. Yesterday, an international consulting firm called The Parthenon Group released its “deeper dive into the motivations and mindsets of distinct groups of student archetypes.” While that doesn’t sound as amusing as a Hollywood script, there’s much to be gleaned from The Parthenon’s six categories — based on a survey of 3,200 people in college or considering it. Here are the lessons for members of each category, from biggest percentage to least…
1. “Aspiring Academics”
Representing almost a quarter of the campus, these are “the traditional students most colleges have sought in the past,” Parthenon says. Why? “They tend to come from higher-income families and represent the top of their high school class. They are interested in a school’s research facilities, as well as research assistant positions and internship opportunities.”
How to save: Obviously, if you fall in this group, you’re likely to win scholarships and land coveted paid internships. Apply early and often. Start with meta-search engines like FinAid and the College Board.
2. “Career Accelerators”
In second place at 21 percent are the least traditional: what some experts call SOTAs (Students Over Traditional Age). “These students, mostly adults, are returning to school to advance their position within their current industry,” Parthenon says. “They tend to be very cost conscious and often look for part-time programs.”
How to save: Depending on the career they’re trying to jump-start, they should consider trade schools, online programs, or even certification programs with their particular trade organization. For instance, PR pros can get accredited through the Public Relations Society of America, while HR pros can do the same through the Society for Human Resources Management.
3. “Career Starters”
At 18 percent of the campus, these are laser-focused students who “see college as a necessary stepping stone for future success,” Parthenon says. “They tend to avoid schools focused on liberal arts degrees, and prioritize job placement rates and campus career services when picking schools.”
How to save: The most expensive schools have the best name recognition — and highest tuition — but not always the best programs for your particular need. For example, Stanford is a famous brand, and an accounting degree from there will cost nearly $60,000 a year. But the equally famous college rankings from U.S. News puts University of Texas-Austin at the top of its bean-counting charts. Cost per year? In state $33,000 and out of state $49,000.
4. “Industry Switchers”
Also 18 percent, these are more old people — “typically adult students who are looking to start a career in an entirely new field,” Parthenon says. “Flexible schedules and job placement programs are of paramount importance to this group.”
How to save: Older students shouldn’t pay for services they don’t want: a big Student Union, a huge football stadium, lots of “free” campus concerts that are paid for with your student fees. So take a hard look at un-hyped “commuter schools” that are cheaper because they spend very little on campus events. Most commuter schools are located in urban areas, which have plenty of nightlife and social life on their own. While young students complain they aren’t getting the “college experience” at commuter schools, you can smile while getting a college education at a good price.
5. “Coming of Age”
Thankfully, this group represents only 11 percent of campus. Why the judgment? Because, Parthenon says, “They believe attending college will give them direction. These students will often explore different subjects for the first two years before declaring a major.”
How to save: Two words. Community college. There’s probably one close to home, it’s much cheaper than a four-year school, and it’s actually easier to transfer into many public four-year schools than it is to get in as a freshman (because states are encouraging their residents to go to community colleges and take the burden off of over-populated four-year schools).
6. “Academic Wanderers”
The smallest group at 8 percent, these students “are unsure exactly what they want out of college, but believe that obtaining a degree will open doors for them,” Parthenon says. Not surprisingly, they’re most at risk dropping out.
How to save: Take a year off. There’s even a term for this: gap year. You can work and save money to go back to school when you have a clear goal, or you can even participate in gap year programs and even win gap year scholarships.
What type of college student are you?