Choosing to go to college already has you on the right financial path, since a college degree is likely to increase your lifetime earnings.
The cost of going to college is high and you might not be employed full time yet in your career of choice. Is there anything you can do now to improve your financial future?
Experts say yes.
Learn to Manage Your Money Now.
Colleges and universities are doing better than ever at offering students ways to learn about personal financial planning. Any student at any campus can access the free podcasts and information at Indiana University’s MoneySmarts.iu.edu, or Purdue University’s MyMoney website, which both offer basics on budgeting, credit cards and loans. Ball State University requires all students to take a personal finance class. Whatever Indiana campus you’re on, you have free access to good advice—so take it. Practice good habits: keep track of your spending and challenge yourself to reduce spending. Through IU MoneySmarts, for example, students are encouraged to resist peer pressure spending and, instead, to support each other in saving money.
Build Good Credit.
What’s a credit score? Think of it as your financial grade point average. And just like your GPA, your credit score can take a beating for little things that you could have done, or should have done, like paying a bill you forgot to pay. Pay all your bills on time, notify your creditors immediately when you move, and minimize any credit card debt—which, by the way, you should be able to pay off each month. By building a strong credit history, you’ll be able to get the funds you need to do big things—continue your education, for example, or buy a car or house. Learn more about credit scores at myFICO.com.
Start Thinking About
Your college goal should be an affordable degree, not debt. But what about the long term? Do you hope to own a home, buy a car, travel? Write down two or three goals and think about the financial sacrifices you’ll have to make to reach them. Writing down your goals forces you to think through what it will take to reach them and, studies show, makes them much more likely to be accomplished.
Ask for Help.
Visit your school or college counseling office to discuss your particular situation. If you are a 21st Century Scholar in Indiana, you have other resources, too, so check with your advisor or campus 21st Century Scholars office for information.
NEED TO SAVE? CUT YOUR COLLEGE COSTS IN BIG WAYS
There are several smart ways to lower the overall cost of your college experience. Consider:
1. 15-to-Finish. Can we say it often enough? Take at least 15 credits each semester to earn the credits you need to graduate on time. If you drag out your college degree, your expenses multiply, costing you thousands of dollars.
2. Don’t Change Your Major. Changing your major will change your graduation requirements, which means more courses and more cost.
3. Summer Savings. Some colleges discount tuition rates during the summer semester. Community college or a regional campus near you, where tuition is cheaper, is another option. Just be sure any courses you take at another institution transfer back to your primary college or university. You can learn more about how courses transfer at www.LearnMoreIndiana.org/Transfer.