Ed. Note: For college students around the country, the newness of the fall semester is probably starting to wear off. And while the admission process may seem like a distant memory, now is a good time to ensure you’re prepared for financial success during this and future semesters. Nicole Callahan, a 2011 college graduate, and a new employee at ED’s Office of Federal Student Aid offers these quality tips to keep you financially focused during the coming year.
9. Check in with your school’s financial aid office – All schools have different requirements when it comes to financial aid. Make sure that your school has an updated version of your FAFSA and any other required paperwork so that your financial aid is not delayed.
8. Keep your eyes open – Don’t wait until your tuition bill is due to start thinking about applying for scholarships. There are scholarships available throughout the year. Check with your school’s financial aid office or your local library to find out what is available. You can also search for scholarships online.
7. Consider Federal loans first – When grants and scholarships aren’t enough, many students apply for student loans to help finance their education. Start with Federal loans that often have lower interest rates and flexible repayment options. To apply for Federal loans, start by completing the FAFSA.
6. Keep track of what you borrow – Remember that eventually, you will have to pay back your student loans, so only borrow what you need to get you through school. The National Student Loan Data System (NSLDS) is a great way to keep track of all the Federal Loans you have borrowed. For private loans, you should check with your lender.
5. Ask about student discounts – When shopping, always ask about student discounts. You can get great deals on everything from laptops to airline tickets just by being a student.
4. Get what you paid for – From concerts to plays to recreational sports teams, most colleges provide a number of services for free. Save yourself money by using the services you already paid for such as a meal plan, the gym or the health center on your campus.
3. Do it yourself – Don’t waste money on things you can do yourself. Instead of stopping into the local coffee shop every morning or going out for dinner, try brewing coffee at home and learning to cook. They may be small expenses, but the savings will add up.
2. Put things into perspective – Take a typical Friday night: you and your friends order pizza ($15), head out to see that hilarious new movie that just came out ($10) and then share a cab back to campus ($7). How many hours would you have to spend at your work-study or part-time job to pay for your night out? Was it worth it?
1. Keep track – Using credit and debit cards make it easy to lose track of what you spend. Make a monthly budget. Divide your spending into categories (food, clothing, entertainment etc.) and set limits on the amount you spend on each. It will prevent you from going overboard.
Office of Federal Student Aid