From tuition costs to required course materials, there’s a lot to financially plan for when it comes to college. As you’re preparing for your transition from high school graduate to college freshman, it’s crucial to focus on the financial planning that’s needed. While the summer before college gives you ample time to get ready for the next chapter of your life, it’s also the perfect time to focus on those financial preparations.
As the summer before your first semester approaches, you’ll want to:
Many students go through significant changes when starting college. On top of college education expenses, there may be living expenses, whether you’re on your own or living with a roommate. Not only will you need to buy items to furnish your new place, but you’ll also need to budget for household bills. Aside from fixed bills, there are also variable expenses that’ll likely change month-to-month, such as food costs. It can be easy to underestimate how much you’ll be spending each month, so it’s never too soon to set up a budget to ensure you’ll be living within your means.
Consider how much you’ll be spending versus how much you’ll be taking in, whether it’s from financial aid, scholarships, loans, a job, or a combination of all the above. Think about what you can cut down on and what you can eliminate completely. Get creative about ways you can save money on the essentials. For instance, you can cut down on food costs by eliminating take-out, restaurants, and fast food – instead, cook all your meals if you’ll have access to a kitchen. Take it a step further by couponing and scoping out sales in order to cut down on your grocery costs.
By getting your budget together before school begins in the fall, you’ll be one step ahead.
Get a summer job
It can be tempting to spend the summer relaxing before you embark on your college journey. Consider using your time wisely by getting a summer job. Even if you have immediate tuition expenses covered, it’s important to think ahead. By using this time to work, you can build an emergency fund for any unanticipated expenses that may come up. As a student, you’re allowed to earn up to $6,600 without your financial aid being affected. Once you begin school, you may not have time for a job, so take advantage of the time you have during the summer.
Work on establishing your credit
Many young adults who are just out of high school have yet to establish a credit history. Before you’re too busy hitting the books, think about laying the necessary groundwork to build up your credit. Start off slow. You can build credit by opening a joint credit card with your parents with a low credit limit and paying off the full balance each month.
Good credit will be necessary for the future if you ever decide to take on a car loan, mortgage, and so on. Some companies may even run credit checks as part of the application process, so it’s essential not to let poor (or no) credit stand in the way of your dream job.
Finalize a plan for college expenses
The summer before your first semester is the ideal time to reflect on your financial plan for college and figure out how you’re going to pay for tuition and other related expenses. Unless you have a prepaid college expense plan or you were awarded a full-ride scholarship, it’s imperative to have a long-term plan in place.
If you haven’t filled out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) yet, you’ll want to do so before school begins. Your FAFSA is a great starting point for planning out how you’ll handle tuition and other college expenses. You may be offered financial aid, which can cover some or all of your college costs. You may also be offered federal student loans, (which can help significantly) but think about your long-term plan to pay them back.
Apply for scholarships
Speaking of scholarships, you’ll want to continuously search for these throughout your years in college. During the summer before your first semester, put together a list of scholarship resources. This can include websites, local businesses, and so on. You can narrow down this list more to hone in on scholarships that focus on specific things, such as fields of study. Your school is a great place to start and there are many great online resources available to help your scholarship search. Having this list handy will help you stay organized and save you time finding and applying for scholarships.
Bridge any gaps with private student loans
Because there are borrowing limits on federal student loans, students may find that the amount they received isn’t enough to cover all their college costs. Depending on your situation, taking out a private student loan may help cover any remaining costs.
At College Ave, we may be able to bridge that gap with a private student loan. We’re here to help.