Whether you are just starting college this fall or going back for another semester, it’s a good idea to give yourself guidelines for your finances. To help, we’ve listed a few things to think about before heading back to school.
Paying for School
It’s important to note you’re not limited to only receiving financial aid before you start school. There are options available to you throughout your years as an undergraduate and as you plan for getting your graduate degree. Applying for a variety of financial aid opportunities, anything from scholarships to federal aid, means being organized.
- Do your research. Find out the kind of scholarships you qualify for and start to build a list. Talk with a guidance counselor or advisor on how to get started.
- Know your deadlines. The easiest way to not be considered for a scholarship is to miss the deadline. To give yourself a safety net, put the deadline on your calendar a week early. That way, if collecting all your information takes longer than you expect, you will have extra time built in.
- Stay organized by working with a guidance counselor or your parents.
- Get creative. Many local organizations offer some kind of scholarship. Start with your extra curricular activities or any community service you’ve done, and see if there’s a coordinating organization in your town.
Prepare to be on your own
Starting college means you’ll be responsible for managing your own wallet. Consider the following before move in day.
- Open a checking account if you do not have one already.
- If you have a steady flow of income, consider opening a savings account to transfer funds to save for future needs.
- Be careful with your debit card. If this is your first time with a debit card, be sure to keep your PIN number to yourself, and never share it with others.
- If you think you will need checks to pay for things while you’re at school, make sure you order them in advance to give them time to be shipped.
- Approach credit cards with caution, and do your research to make sure you understand your interest rate, fees and plan for monthly payments. For a lot of students, college will be their first experience with an “emergencies only” credit card.
- Look for a part time job. Depending on the job, the hours can be flexible and help with extra income throughout the year.
How to manage your money
College life can have unexpected expenses, but having a plan for your finances will help you stay one step ahead.
- Make a budget. Write out your income and monthly expenses (rent, food, gas).
- Use a mobile app to keep track of your daily expenses. This is especially important to help you know areas to cut back where you are overspending.
- Sign up for alerts. There are several options to choose from, but a low balance alert is a good way to prevent overdrawing your account.
Ways to save as a student
- Rent or buy used textbooks. Don’t forget to return the rented ones or you’ll get charged.
- If you have a meal plan, use it! Ordering out for food adds up quickly.
- Find student discounts. Many local establishments will have specials for students for when you need to get out of the dining hall. Signing up for discount websites in your college town is a great way to have deals delivered to you.
These are all helpful items to assist you throughout your college experience. Revisit these tips every semester to make sure you’re taking advantage of all the tools available to help you manage your finances….and to help you save money!