My youngest brother started another college semester this past week. He has been lucky enough to benefit from the experience and knowledge of his older siblings who have already gone through the college experience and is graduating better off than many of us did. He’s gotten many great ideas for how to succeed financially in college.
Unlike my brother, I did not have the advantage of sage advice when I went to school. I didn’t know what I was doing or any tricks to help save money during and after school. I tried my best but most of my financial education came after college when I was scrambling to find work and pay down my student loans.
Financial Essentials For College Students
Here are a few of the things that I think are essential for college students to have or gain during their time in school.
It’s an important period of growth and getting these financial essentials in place will help you move through college and enter the working world with ease!
1. A working knowledge of personal finance
The biggest thing college students can do to help themselves is learn about money and how it works. Ignorance will lead you down a lot of bad paths so take the time in college to learn about personal finance. Sign up for free educational sites, read personal finance blogs, or take a class about personal finance at your school. Read books about getting out of debt and read books about your career. No matter how you do it, start getting educated about your money. It will really help you thrive when you start your first major job out of college.
2. A scholarship search
If you are just starting college or planning to go to grad school, you need to do a scholarship search. Then apply. Then apply again! Every scholarship you win and apply to your tuition is money in your pocket, so doing a thorough scholarship is worth the time and effort. There are lots of site that offer scholarship database searches to try hitting several to find the scholarships that might apply to you as a college student.
3. A good checking account
Congrats on being a college student – now it’s time for your own checking account if you haven’t had one yet!
Many students seem to enjoy walking around with pockets full of cash but opening a good checking account and using a debt card keeps your money safe and helps with tracking your spending. It’s much easier to see how much you spent on a night out with friends when your tab went to your debit card than an unknown amount of cash is missing.
If you don’t have a checking account yet, it’s a great time to open one since you should be able to open a student account as long as you’re in school. When you decide to open an account make sure you check the fee schedule and minimum balance requirements. Many banks will offer free checking for students but some charge a monthly fee or waive that fee with a minimum balance. Your checking account is a great chance to pay attention to the fine print – a skill you’ll be doing for decades as an adult!
4. An Amazon Student Prime membership
Amazon Prime is amazing and they offer a special Prime account for students. I recommend college students take advantage of it for the free 2 day shipping, ability to buy or rent cheaper textbooks, and savings on other life essentials. You can buy almost anything on Amazon and it’s almost always cheaper. You can even get a free 6 month trial buy clicking here.
5. A credit tracking source
You might not know it when you first get to college, but this is a time when you’ll start developing a credit score that will affect your life later. Your credit score is important to getting a job, renting an apartment, buying a car, or buying a house. For all the major goals you’ll want to achieve after college you’ll need a good credit score. Sign up for an account like Credit Sesame to check and monitor your credit during college so you’ll know where you stand and what you need to do to improve.
Many bank accounts and credit card accounts now also provide free credit scores that update weekly. If you are using a bank account like Capital One they will provide this so you can check it weekly. While a credit score isn’t the end of the world, it can be useful when you leave college and have to apply for apartments or even certain jobs that check credit. You’ll want to make sure your credit score isn’t preventing you from getting started in life.
6. A plan to pay off student loan debt
Before you sign up for your next semester of classes, you need to know what your plan is for paying off any student loans you are taking on to pay for school. I promise, this is essential! I didn’t do this and am paying off student loans well into my 30s. Don’t make that mistake – have a plan for your student loan debt.
You can use online calculators, like the one at www.FinAid.org to estimate how much a future monthly student loan payment will be. You can find out what kind of salary you will need to meet that financial obligation while still living your life.
Creating a plan to pay off debt before you graduate will get you off to a great start in life. I promise you don’t want to bury your head in the sand regarding your student loans because they do not magically go away and will follow you around waiting to be paid.
7. A job
Whether it’s an internship, part time job, full time job, I think every college student should work while going to school. Working while you are in college gives you both experience to bring to the real world and money in your pocket for living expenses and fun activities.
There are so many benefits to working while in college that a job is definitely an essential for anyone in school. Even if you have a full scholarship, it is a great time to start working to build up your resume and improve your work ethic.
College Money Essentials
Those are just a few of the financial essentials I think college students should have these days. Like my little brother, college students today have the benefit of learning from others and taking advantage of lots of great tools and services.
It’s easier than ever to learn about personal finances online and get a jumpstart on your working life while you’re still in school. Take the time to get prepared and position yourself for a successful college run and launch into the world!