[custom_frame_left][/custom_frame_left]As college freshmen experience their first taste of real freedom, making smart financial decisions is probably the last thing on their mind. But if you’re a parent who has recently sent your child off to college, you might be concerned about helping your child learn to manage their finances responsibly. Whether you’re helping pay for your child’s education or if they will be paying for it themselves, we’ve compiled a list of financial tips every college freshman should know, to help freshmen and their parents navigate this milestone.
According to the U.S. National Center for Education Statistics, 21.6 million students are expected to attend American colleges and universities in 2012. With the cost of tuition rising each year, there’s no doubt that those 21.6 million students are going to be looking for ways to earn extra money, cut costs, and help pay for their education.
Make a Plan
First of all, help your child make a list of their anticipated expenses, including tuition, books, living expenses, and entertainment. Then identify their sources of income. Comparing the two will help you identify if their expenses outweigh their income. Talk to your child about any discrepancies and how they can address them. Discuss any support they can expect from you or if they will need to get a job.
If your child has already entered college, it’s likely you’ve been through the process of applying for financial aid. But there are always opportunities for your child to apply for more grants or scholarships. Websites such as www.collegeboard.com, www.fastweb.com, www.finaid.com, and www.salliemae.com are great places to start
If your child needs to apply for loans, be sure they understand the repayment terms and the obligation. Encourage them to talk to the financial aid office located at their university, in addition to filing new FAFSA forms each year
Saving on Expenses
There are many ways college freshmen can cut costs without feeling like they’re missing out. For example, universities often offer a variety of meal plan. Before just choosing the most expensive (usually an “unlimited”) option, ask your child to evaluate their eating habits. If they typically eat a granola bar or cereal for breakfast and don’t eat much for lunch, they may be able to keep more food in their room and save on a more expensive meal plan.
Many businesses offer student discounts. Students can save money at the movies, when they order pizza, even when they purchase airfare. Encourage your child to ask about discounts before they make purchases.
There are also opportunities to save on text books. You can often rent or purchased used books. Often, universities will buy back textbooks from students at the end of the semester.
Students may also be able to save money on transportation. Most universities are designed for students to walk, bike, or take a bus or shuttle. They will often charge a fee for parking that may not be worth the expense if your child won’t be driving much. If your child will have a vehicle while at school, be sure to inquire about student discounts for insurance.
Getting a Job
Most college students will have to get a job at some point in their college career. One of the most practical options is for students to obtain on-campus positions. Not only does this cut down on travel time and offer flexible schedules, but students might also be able to find a job that is related to their major and sometimes even counts as credit toward their degree.
If your child is considering an off-campus job, be sure their potential employers are aware of their class schedule. Your child should be sure that if they accept a job that it leaves enough time for them to study and prepare for classes.
Provide Education About Saving and Financial Planning
In our article Teaching Kids About Money, we discussed a number of ways to teach your children responsible money management. You should continue the discussion with them about saving money, planning for retirement, and avoiding credit cards.