While partying, skipping class and one night stands make the tops of many graduates’ lists of college mistakes, financial mistakes are often part of college mess ups as well. Many college students come out with thousands of dollars in debt, but this list of the biggest money mistakes you can make in college and how to avoid them can help you hold on to a little extra cash while earning your degree.
1. Not Looking into Financial Aid and Scholarships
First things first – you must fill out the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid). It’s free and could potentially get you free money to put toward your education. The FAFSA awards financial aid in the form of grants, scholarships and work-study programs if you meet certain criteria. Scholarships are also great opportunities to save money on your education. Finding and applying for scholarships can take a lot of research and work, but it’s worth it. Start by looking into yearly scholarships your school offers and apply for any that you meet the requirements of. No matter how small or large the amount, anything helps!
2. Buying New Textbooks
When you receive that long list of books you need for classes, your first reaction might be to head to the campus book store. But one new college textbook can cost you close to $100 or more. Now multiply that by those seven textbooks you need (as if college isn’t already expensive enough!). So what should you do? There are tons of websites that offer used textbooks for sale, and even websites that compare prices across the internet so you get the best deal. And once you’re done with them, you can sell your textbooks yourself for some cash. You can also consider renting your textbooks either physically or through an e-reader, or sharing textbooks with peers if you can make it work.
3. Opening Multiple Credit Card Accounts
You might be considering opening a few credit card accounts to help pay for all of those textbooks and other costs that come with college. Surely all of those new offers in the mail are tempting. Yes, credit cards can help with these costs, and they can help you build up credit. But they can also put you in debt fast if you misuse them. Try to stick with one card, and apply for the one with the lowest APR (Annual Percentage Rate). Be sure to be responsible and pay your bill on time every month, and if possible, pay your balance in full to avoid spending extra money on interest.
4. Not Getting a Job
Many students avoid getting a job in college because they want to focus solely on their studies. But a part time job while in college can be beneficial in multiple ways. Of course it will benefit your wallet, and in addition it can help you learn time management by balancing a job and classes – a life skill you will surely need in any career. Plus, it will give you something to put on your resume when you graduate. There are tons of opportunities on campus such as the book store, the coffee shop or the recreation center. Also talk to your professors about a potential job. You could end up with something related to your major, which is huge for your resume!
5. Misusing Student Loans
Student loans are a necessity for many to attend college. The cost of college has increased dramatically over the past few years, so mom and dad can’t always put out the money for us. Some students tend to get excited about this extra money and spend it on non school-related items, putting them even deeper in debt when they graduate. Stick to spending your student loan money on school-related costs only. Whatever it is you want, if you wouldn’t be able to afford it without your student loan money, don’t buy it!
6. Overpaying for Housing
Sure, this apartment has a brand new kitchen and a walk-in marble shower. But do you really need all that? Don’t waste your money paying for a dorm, apartment or house with modern amenities you really don’t need. After all, it’s not where you live that makes the college experience – it’s the people you meet and the memories you make with them. In addition, having roommates can also help offset the cost of housing. If a room can be made into a bedroom, do it!