What Do I Need as I Prepare for College?

by David Sung

College is a big step toward becoming a productive adult. It’s the time period when someone will largely become their own person, manage their own responsibilities, and learn how to make decisions and deal with consequences. The months leading up to, and first few once they arrive at college, can be filled with anxiety.

In today’s post, we’ll cover some of the important things to keep in mind as you begin packing your things and planning the next several years of your life.

Set a Budget

Later in life you’ll look back on your college years and fondly remember the times in college when money was tight and you did anything to save a few bucks. You’ll also be amazed how much fun you had with so little money. But, during your college years, money will be tight and there will be sacrifices that need to be made. You will need to set a budget ahead of time to ensure you have money left for the things you want to do. This is a time to be honest with yourself and make responsible decisions. Your entire bank account can’t be ‘fun’ money.

Think Realistically About Meal Plans

University cafeteria meal plans are a common trap for college students. Many different options are offered, ensuring you can eat the best you can. Not all students need a large meal plan, though, especially students who live off-campus and can make food on their own. Be realistic about your meal plan needs, and don’t be afraid to select a lower plan. You can usually increase your plan if you need to.

Keep up with and Apply for Scholarships

Scholarship opportunities don’t disappear once you move into your dorm. Work with your financial aid office, and do your own personal research to find new scholarship opportunities. If you have already received scholarships, work hard to keep up the standards that they require – typically your grades. While it may be tempting to slack off and enjoy your new ‘freedom,’ you’ll be deeply regretting that decision when your student loans begin to swell.

Look into Credit Cards

This is a serious step, and not for you if you aren’t yet responsible enough to avoid letting charges add up each month. If you are confident in your ability to keep your spending to levels you can maintain – meaning a balance you can pay off each month – a credit card is an excellent way for a young adult to establish credit. Shop around for the financial institution that is offering the best rates and rewards programs, not the best T-shirt.

Stay Informed About Your Student Loan

Student loans can be daunting, and many people choose to avoid for years the elephant in the room by pretending it doesn’t exist. Savvy students should be working closely with the financial aid office at their school to stay informed. For example, you may be able to adjust your loans if your family suffers a major loss of income. Learn the ins and outs of your loans to be better prepared to repay them once you graduate.

College will be one of the greatest times of your life, but it can also be one of the most expensive. Take the proper steps to ensure that it doesn’t become more expensive than it has to be and weigh you down for years after you graduate.

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