Yep, it’s that time of year again. If you live in a place like Athens, Georgia or Williamstown, Massachusetts, you’ve probably noticed an infestation of clueless-looking, overeager iPhone-wielding teenagers, not an unpredictable plague but a seasonal swarm. And if you are lucky enough to be one of those kids (I miss those days so badly myself), you probably have a lot on your mind: classes, parties, dating, sports, etc. But one thing you’re probably also thinking about, much more than any previous generation of college-bound kids, is money. After all, you’ve had the message hammered home relentlessly over the past few years that there will be no jobs when you graduate, and that student loans are going to be an oppressive 16-ton financial weight on you for the rest of your working lives.
At the time I went to college, not so long ago (I matriculated in 2001 and graduated in 2005), the mood referred to by Alan Greenspan as “irrational exuberance” had only just been punctured, by Enron, the dotcom bust, and most of all 9/11. I think on some level we all assumed it was a bad dream we’d soon wake up from, and return to the 90s era of unchallenged peace and prosperity…but now the reality has set in. While I think the doomsayers have exaggerated, it’s never too soon to learn to handle your money. Here’s a few of my most valuable tips:
1. Apply for every scholarship you can.
I mean this. University endowments and scholarship funds are like trees full of money, yours for a good hard shaking. Spend some time crafting a killer application essay and it can be yours. Even once you’re already in school, these opportunities are still available, many of them for summer fellowships and other such stuff. Apply early and often; it’s not a waste of time…precisely because so many of your peers think it is, the odds aren’t so bad.
2. Live off-campus somewhere cheap with a bunch of friends.
Unless, as per item #1, you’ve secured a ton of free money from your school, living on-campus is generally not much of a bargain. Find a cheap house, a few buddies, and live on your own for a while. Though you’ll probably live like pigs/bums, that’s part of the joy of it. Never again in your life will it matter so little. Your needs are minimal. Take advantage of it.
3. Don’t spend money on stuff for your room.
You’re going to be moving, over and over, for the next four years. Every May and every August, most likely. So travel light. And don’t have a spending spree as you move into the dorms. Ask around and you’ll be amazed how much stuff you can find as hand-me-downs. Any furniture you buy will, in any case, probably get wrecked over the course of your collegiate career. So don’t go to Target, go to Craigslist.
A freelance blogger and writer for over ten years, Aniya Wells now regularly contributes to the Onlinedegreeprograms.com blog. She is passionate about giving potential students advice as they embark on an online or traditional degree program. Aniya is very excited about the latest advances in technology that have made a comprehensive education more accessible to all! Please direct questions or comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.