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A Letter to the Student Heading to College

A Letter to the Student Heading to College

Student studying
Heading off to school? Here are some money saving tips.

Recently, I was asked what money advice I would offer a young person heading off to college. This made me recall helping four of my own children successfully navigate college life and graduate on time.

Based on that experience, I can say without a doubt that the learning opportunities of university life don't stop at the classroom door. Chances abound to begin establishing solid money management habits. I hope you'll find the below advice useful in your transition into financial independence.

  • Work with your advisor right away to ensure completion of your degree program in four years. Taking the right courses now to eventually qualify for registration in your 300 and 400 level courses can pay off handsomely in the long run. Avoiding the expense of an additional semester or two can make a huge difference.
  • Be smart about the money you earn during the summer for use at school. Setting up a Credit Union account specifically for these funds will let you always know exactly where you stand. Deposit your summer earnings, graduation money, gifts from grandma and grandpa, and any savings you have already accumulated for your college experience. Make a budget and manage these funds accordingly.
  • If you do not have a work study job as part of your financial aid package, apply ASAP to the student services office for any part-time jobs available on campus. These jobs may not pay top dollar, but they are often conveniently situated in the library, student union, or cafeteria. These locations may even have extra benefits, such as opportunities to study, meet friends, or access snacks and beverages for which you otherwise might spend big money.
  • Take full advantage of your school meal plan by eating as many meals as you can in the cafeteria. Yes, even breakfast at 8 o'clock in the morning! I have witnessed hundreds and hundreds of dollars spent at local convenience stores, diners, and fast food restaurants as a result of missed meals in the cafeteria. Of course you will want to go with friends and have a pizza from time to time, but you will be amazed at what you will save by using your meal ticket to its full extent.
  • College bookstores are the most expensive places to buy your books! Get your class syllabi as early as possible and make a list of the ISBNs (International Standard Book Numbers) for the required textbooks. If the 10- or 13-digit ISBNs aren't listed on the syllabi, visit the college bookstore to locate these numbers. They're usually found near the bar code on the back of the textbook. Ordering your books online by searching for the ISBN can save you big. My children saved between $300 and $600 per semester on books alone!
  • Lastly, be conscious of all of the opportunities for free or cheap entertainment offered at your college. Concerts, movies, international food festivals, etc., all provide incredible venues to meet friends and enjoy an evening or a weekend without parting with a lot of your hard-earned money.

Article was written by Patrick Catania