Megan McArdle posts on how to think about going to college: How to Make the Most Out of Your Higher Education. Along with some very common sense advice about picking the right major, getting the undergraduate degree done in four years, and avoiding graduate school unless it is either necessary for your career path or lucrative, McArdle suggestions taking time off between high school and college to work, at least for year.
The advice to go to a community college is particularly good. That's the route I took when I went to college back in 1988: two years of community college getting my Associate of Arts degree, then two years at university finishing up my Bachelor's degree. It saved me thousands of dollars in tuition and living expenses. I also worked while in school, not just during the summers but during the school year as well. When I graduated with my B.A., I not only didn't have any debt, I had $4,000 in the bank.
One area where I would disagree a bit (but only a bit) with McArdle is her approach to the humanities. She says never major in history or English. If the only degree you are going to get is the B.A. degree, that is good advice. History and English are not solid career degrees -- and I would add psychology, sociology and philosophy to that mix as well. But if you are planning on doing graduate work, they can be invaluable. Again with McArdle's cavets about grad school in mind, if a student is intent on grad school -- and by intent I mean "I am going to go to grad school and I have the money set aside to do it and there is nothing that could ever stop me from going to grad school including a giant asteroid strike") -- then history or English or philosophy or a degree like that is a fantastic undergrad degree to have. I majored in history as an undergrad, and while it never got me a job, when I went to law school I had a much easier time of things because of the training I had received in my history program. But if the student is going to be on the standard "one and done" track when it comes to degrees, then by all means he or she should stay away from the humanities or social sciences.