By: Sharon Hasan, FAS Senior Consultant
As students begin or settle into the exhilarating First Year Experience, they will find themselves inundated with an array of topics and tips – hacks and tricks that promise to shape their academic paths. From shopping for essentials to mastering the art of building community, each piece of advice holds its significance in our pursuit of knowledge. While everything on the list has value, I found the term BUDGET only when it addressed time management.
With the cost of higher education steadily rising, a strategic approach to how financial aid is discussed should be a more central essential than ever. 83.8% of first-time, first-year undergraduate students receive financial aid in some form. Paying for college is a committed process, If I were to write a list of the top most important factors that shape the first-year academic career, it would be:
The pursuit of knowledge doesn’t require emptying your wallet. Federal regulations require schools to provide detailed information regarding books so that families can research prices and purchase books before stepping foot on campus. Before you rush to buy books and supplies, explore different options, and compare prices. Armed with detailed information provided by schools, you can make informed decisions and potentially alleviate the need for excessive borrowing.
The financial journey need not follow a predetermined path. Consider alternatives such as attending a community college before transferring to a four-year institution or taking advantage of summer sessions to expedite your degree. Opportunities like becoming a resident assistant or working on campus can also help defray costs. opt to work on campus using Federal Work-study or campus employment.
Harness Scholarly Resources:
Beyond textbooks, colleges offer a treasure trove of resources. Avail yourself of on-campus services, tap into tutoring and mental health support, and make the most of advising opportunities. Research scholarships and financial aid options while you’re enrolled, setting the stage for a more secure financial future.
Pre-planning can reduce or eliminate the need to borrow money. If borrowing becomes inevitable, remember the golden rule – borrow only what you truly need. Prudent borrowing minimizes the burden of debt after graduation, allowing you to step confidently into your post-college life.
Keep the Bigger Picture in Mind:
In the whirlwind of initial excitement, it’s easy to focus on the present semester. Yet, paying for college is a journey spanning a year. As you allocate your financial resources, consider the long-term commitment and plan strategically.
As the academic year unfolds, let us embrace not only the pursuit of knowledge but also the mastery of financial empowerment. Just as we enrich our minds, let us also nurture our financial acumen, paving the way for a prosperous and fulfilling educational voyage. Remember, the choices we make today have the power to shape our financial freedom tomorrow.