It may seem as though summer break just started, but with August comes the start of another school year is just around the corner. You’ve probably received your college bill and are starting to make plans to transition back into school. We’ve developed a financial checklist to help you get ready.
1. Save summer earnings for college expenses
Although it’s tempting to spend what you earn, save as much of your summer paycheck as possible for college expenses. If your college bill is covered, you can use your summer earning for books, supplies, and personal expenses while in school.
2. Be sure you have taken all required steps to secure your financial aid
Have you returned your award acceptance and responded to any information requests from your financial aid office? If you are a new federal borrower, you will need to complete federal entrance counseling and sign your loan promissory note. Your financial aid office would have reached out to you with directions and steps you need to take along with completion dates. If you haven’t already, locate that information now and make sure you have completed all the steps.
3. Pay your college bill in full and on time
Most colleges require students to pay bills for the semester in full before they arrive. If you are unable to cover the bill after financial aid is applied, you may still be able to obtain additional student loan funds. Check with your financial aid office for guidance on any additional federal loans you or your parents may be eligible to borrow. If needed, private student loans may also be available to bridge the gap. Just be sure to pay whatever you can before borrowing funds that you will need to pay back later, with interest. Information on private student loan programs can be located on your school website.
4. Look for discounts on books and supplies
Many instructors will provide a list of books and supplies online before school begins. Some schools will also provide links and resources for purchasing used books. You can save money by looking to those resources first before buying your books new. You can generally pick up general supplies like paper, notebooks, pens, etc. more reasonably at home than at school. Check your school’s website to see if discounts are available on equipment like computers and printers.
5. Set up an in-school budget
Whether you’re going to school with money you’ve saved for personal expenses, a family-provided bank account, or with financial aid designated for living costs, you probably have a lump sum which will need to last throughout the semester or even the entire year. Establishing a budget that considers your available funds and your expenses will help you stretch that money over an extended period instead of spending it all upfront. Budgets take self-discipline and planning but they are well worth the effort.
6. Try to arrange for a part-time job now
There are two different types of jobs during college. One is Federal Work-Study, which is included on your financial aid award letter. The other is a part-time job that you obtain on your own. Colleges often help students by posting opportunities on job boards which identify positions as one or the other. You can also look on local jobs websites for part-time jobs. If you apply for jobs now, you’ll be ahead of the rush. You’ll also demonstrate your initiative to prospective employers. When students return to campus, it will be more competitive as many students search for jobs at the same time.
Taking the time to prepare now will pay great dividends later. By taking care of financial matters in advance, you can focus more on your studies and enjoy your time in college.
Special Note: If you have not yet applied for financial aid, you can still complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Don’t assume you won’t be eligible. If you need help for college, apply! Your time is getting short though, so file the FAFSA as soon as possible to be sure your financial aid eligibility has been assessed before school starts.