Personal finance tips for college students


Choosing to go to college is one of the biggest financial decisions a person makes in their lifetime.

It’s an investment both of time and money and the financial choices made by those entering college — sometime 18-years old or younger — can have ramifications for decades to come.

If you are in college (or the parent of a college student) consider the following three tips to put you on the path of financial wellness.

Understand student loans Student loans, while not always necessary, could be a helpful financial tool for students and their families.

There are several types of loans, including federal subsidized loans, federal unsubsidized loans, and private loans. No matter the type of loan you choose, you need to understand the total amount of your loan, the interest it will accrue, and the terms of repayment.

While all loans are considered borrowed money that you will need to pay back, each loan’s terms will vary.

Some loans may even come with forgiveness depending on the industry you work in or other factors.

We recommend reviewing this information and creating a plan to borrow the lowest amount possible to meet your goals. Additionally, while repayment may seem far away, think about how you will manage repayment now. Paying off loans early or ahead of schedule will help reduce your overall debt.

Research job market Since applying to college, you likely have an idea about what you enjoy studying and potential career paths that interest you.

Perhaps you declared a major, or entered college undecided, but either way, you should begin considering how your academic choices will contribute to your future career goals.

By your sophomore year of college, you should start researching major options that align with your goals.

Clarifying your values and goals, especially related to money and lifestyle, will help you make decisions related to your major and career path.

Look for a career that is enjoyable, as you will spend too many hours working to settle for something you dislike.

While we both advise against making major career (and other) decisions solely about money, it is important that your vision of a financial future aligns with the industry you’re about to enter.

For example, if you have visions of living an upper-middle class lifestyle, there are different career routes — and different majors associated with those routes — that you may wish to pursue.

lso, if there are two careers that you are considering between and you think you’d like both, job market trends and salary might be a great way to choose which major and career to pursue that will help you achieve your goals. We recommend researching career paths, recommended degrees, and salary projections on ONET Online, which is a database sponsored by the U.S. Department of Labor.

Consider on- or off-campus jobs Working while in college allows you to earn some money while taking classes. Working off-campus can be ideal if there is a specific role that suits you, but otherwise we think you should consider an on-campus job.

The benefits of working on campus are many — your supervisors will work around your college schedule and understand that you are a student first and your job will likely be a short walk or bus ride from where you live or learn.

Many universities have options for students who qualify for work study as part of their financial aid package. Work study permits you to earn a wage in an on-campus job and your earnings will appear in a paycheck.

Even if you do not qualify for work study, you will likely still be able to find a job on campus! That said, it is your responsibility to search for and apply for a job on campus. Most universities have a centralized online location to search for on-campus jobs.

Not only is earning a wage meaningful, on-campus jobs are a great way to build a foundation of professional skills to use to apply for future opportunities.

College is one of the biggest “purchases” you’ll make in your entire life. Since it is a large investment of time and money, it deserves your careful attention.

By making smart financial decisions you will maximize the value of your investments and have a smoother path to financial success after you graduate.

Allie Grill is Director of the Career Development Center and Matthew Rousu is Dean of the Sigmund Weis School of Business at Susquehanna University.


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