The Money Quiz: Are You Prepared for College's Financial Demands?
Find out if you’re prepared to take on college’s financial demands, and get some tailor-made advice just for you!
1. How are you paying for college?
B. My parents are just paying for tuition and books (I’ll live at home to offset dorm and food costs).
C. My parents are just paying for tuition and books (I’ll have to figure out where to live and how to feed myself).
D. I am paying for everything (but will not need loans).
E. I am paying for everything (but will need loans).
2. Your working situation is…
B. I used to have an after-school job, but school got in the way.
C. I used to have an after-school job, but my social life got in the way.
D. I do odd jobs as they come to me (babysit, mow lawns, move furniture, etc.).
E. I have never worked a day in my life.
3. What is your savings game like?
B. What do you mean by savings?
C. I have about a $1,000 saved.
D. I have a few bucks saved.
E. I have a few hundred saved.
4. When you picture yourself at college, how do you picture your daily life?
B. Going to class, working a little, and then having fun.
C. Working a campus job, which will earn me money but keep me social.
D. Going to class and working all the time; I can have fun if there’s time leftover.
E. Working; I will schedule college classes between my shifts at work.
5. Which of the following is most representative of your financial experience?
B. I can write checks and I know my way around an ATM.
C. I have never had to think about money.
D. I work, so I am familiar with checking accounts and paying taxes.
E. My parents got me a credit card so I know a little about interest and spending limits.
How Did You Do?
You’re totally clueless about money.
Your parents pay for everything. In fact, they handle just about everything for you, including giving you an allowance, waking you up before class, and making your doctors appointments for you. You never had to get a job; your parents are paying for college; and your sole responsibility is to be a great student.
This generosity often creates a unique set of challenges for the college bound, however. College means freedom to spend that allowance without much oversight or use those “for emergencies only” credit cards a bit too often. (We’ve been there.) Take these tips to heart, so you’re prepared for the financial realities ahead:
Money is a motivator. If you’re irresponsible with the money your parents have given you for essentials or enjoyment, they will take it away. You’re an adult now, spend wisely. If you are constantly asking for more, it’s going to raise red flags and rub them the wrong way. Also, if you start failing exams or your GPA is suffering, you can pretty much expect Mom and Dad to reel in the spare change to “refocus” you on school.
Peer pressure affects your spending too. Don’t be surprised if you feel pressure to go out to eat with friends more often than your allowance affords. You’ll also feel pressure to own the same clothes as your classmates, pressure to pay for others, and pressure to stock your dorm with junk food and supplies if your roommate has less spending money. Remember your parents probably paid for a meal plan, so what you don’t spend on extra food means more to spend on gas, activities and clothes. Better yet, save that money for more important things — like a summer abroad, a spring break trip or pad a savings account for the future.
The money train does run out. Generally, the amount of money your parents give you for college starts to shrink as senior year and graduation approach. Consider it their way of preparing you for the real world. They likely expect you to supplement their money with funds from internships or side jobs, as you prepare for the real world. Make sure to ask you parents what their expectations are and prepare for the free ride to come to an end.
You’re barely aware of financials.
You’re fortunate to have some financial help coming your way for college, but your parents expect you to pull your weight in some way. Whether they’re covering tuition or paying for room and board only, it’s a big help. You’ve stashed away a few birthday checks and worked a few carhop shifts at Sonic, but that money won’t go far. How do you plan to cover the difference? Time for a crash course on what you’ll need. Here are some tips just for you.
Sign up for a checking account. If you’re not quite 18, your parents can sign up for a joint checking account with you. Then, use it. Don’t just let your parents manage it.
Check your account balance before every purchase you want to make.
Read your bank statements each month, whether they’re paper or electronic.
It might seem antiquated, but you need to know how to balance a checkbook. Your parent or banker can teach you quickly.
Save at least 10 percent of all the money you make, whether it’s your allowance, babysitting money or birthday cash. It will add up quickly, and you’ll have a nice safety net for college.
Get a part-time job as soon as you get to college. Your studies should come first, but there’s usually plenty of time leftover for a couple shifts a week. The extra cash will be a great help to you, but the life and financial skills the job will teach you holds an even higher value.
You’re somewhat prepared for college costs.
Your parents can’t afford to pay your way, but it’s still generous of them to help in small ways — like buying you that laptop for graduation or sending dorm care packages from time to time. You already know you’re not going to be able to afford college without a lot of work. That means buckling down in the classroom to keep up that GPA (financial aid and scholarships are going to be crucial), as well as carving out time to work as much as possible between classes. Take comfort knowing this hard work is going to prepare you for the real world faster than those who’ve never had to work or apply for financial aid. However, there are a few things you still need to know—our top tips for you are:
Find a campus job. There are a variety of jobs you can try for at your school of choice, each with a unique set of benefits. Some are your standard shift work, but others — like being a Resident Advisor or a work-study position — provide tuition credits or offer a room and board allowance. That means you’re earning money and cutting college costs, all while being social and staying plugged in on campus.
Create an emergency fund. Unexpected costs come out of nowhere—cars break down, people get fired, your roommate fails to come up with their half of th rent. Whatever comes up, you’ll still be on the hook for fixed costs like tuition, room and board—payments you just can’t skip because of an emergency. Stash as much as you can aside for a rainy day to be sure you’re covered. Experts generally suggest having six months worth of living expenses saved.
Start building credit. Given your financial situation, it might be wise to get a credit card. Something with a small spending limit to get started. It’s up to you how you use it—emergencies, perhaps? Ideally, however, you’ll use it as a stepping stone to having an excellent credit history and score, so that after graduation you are able to get good interest rates on cars, homes or small business loans.
You could use a refresher before being cut loose.
You’re already well on your way to being self-sufficient. College won’t be the first time you face serious financial realities. You’re parents put a roof over your head, but you’ve been working and paying your way for a while now. Mowing lawns, babysitting, waiting tables, working retail, whatever you could find you did to start saving for college. You’ve also readied yourself for the responsibility of student loans. You know you’ll need them, but aren’t sure of the commitment. Here are a couple things to remember:
For starters, limit the amount of loans you need. How? Keep your grades up throughout high school. Duh!
Then, apply for every scholarship you can and get as much financial aid as possible. If you don’t have parental financial support, you will qualify for a lot of aid. But you must apply for it to get it.
Complete your first two years at nearby community college. This keeps that free roof over your head a couple more years, plus tuition is significantly less expensive at a two-year school.
Make sure you know what “interest” is. See 3 Things To Ask Before Taking Out a Student Loan explaining interest and how it grows—and how this impacts your bank account!
Determine the value of your degree. We’ll shoot you straight. You don’t want to get into $100,000 of student loan debt if you’re going to be a journalist. It will take you way too long to pay off your loans, and thus the loan interest will continue to add to the amount you owe. Look at the average salaries of the jobs you’re interested in and compare that to the size of loan you’ll need—still worth it?
You’re ready for the real world, but don’t forget...
Based on your answers, you already understand what awaits you after high school graduation—work, studying, repeat. It’s simply a continuation of what you’ve been doing for a couple years now. You’ve always had a part-time job in addition to school and extracurriculars—you know how to juggle it all. You’ve also made the grades and done your due diligence. You’ll go off to college armed with a healthy savings account, several scholarships and financial aid, as well as a steady side job, so you won’t need student loans. Bravo! But, hey, don’t forget to …
Have some fun. You will be working a lot, and working hard on your studies. Your hard earned dollars are paying for those classes, so you will be committed to not wasting a penny. We want to encourage you to stop and smell the roses from time to time — enjoy the college experience a little — it is a pivotal time in your life and we hope you soak it in alongside your responsibilities.