At this point you have probably been accepted to your schools and now the financial packages have come rolling in…maybe you haven’t given it much though or maybe it has been the only thing on your mind since day one. Either way it doesn’t hurt to start thinking about your financial future early.
College is expensive! There is no doubt about it. If you open up Yahoo and scroll down the page you don’t have to look very far to find something about the millennial generation and the amount of student debt that is piling up at a rapid pace. But, if you understand what you are getting yourself into and are smart about how you manage your money a college education is one of the best investments that you can make. Take it from a grad student…the following tips are things that I have learned and that I wish I had paid more attention to when I was applying to schools and in my first years as an undergraduate!
1. Look at your WHOLE Financial Package: It may sound silly but sometimes we don’t stop to take a real hard look at the package, the numbers can get confusing, I get it. Make sure that you are looking at all four years, does the scholarships you received have qualifications such as maintaining a certain GPA? Do the math and see how much that education is going to cost you for all four years not just one year. You need to understand your cost upfront.
2. Understand Subsidized vs. Unsubsidized loans: This could be a lecture in and of itself but the long story short is that subsidized loans don’t start gaining interest until after you graduate, while unsubsidized loans start gaining interest while you are still in school. Long story short you want to look at your personal financial situation and try to maximize the number of subsidized loans you have an minimize the unsubsidized.
3. Take advantages of services offered such as our SALT program on campus: SALT-Financial Literacy Program is a great program offered at Nazareth that is open to all Nazareth students. This program allows you to import your loan information, track your interest, as well as provides great information about basic finances, how to create a budget and other great financial tips.
4. Do the FASFA with your Parents: I realize it is a huge bulky document that might not make a whole lot of sense at the present moment but take the time to do it with your parents. You will be surprised at the amount of things you can learn from the experience and it will give you better idea about how the government and the college determine your financial aid package.
5. Make a Spreadsheet of your loans/scholarships/and payments. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy (I can tell you mine is not) but it really helps to track how you are doing when payments are due and lets you track and see what loans you are going to have to pay off after graduation. You do not want to be the person who when they graduate gets the envelope from financial aid with your loan amount and that is your first time seeing that number.
6. Apply for outside scholarships: There are so many out their beyond just the ones offered by your high school, ask past graduates, family members, family friends and other people you know. There are a lot of organizations out their that offer money to kids going to school, apply often and apply to as many as you can! The less you can take out in loans the better off you will be in the long run.
7. Get an on campus job: It not only makes you some money but it also is a GREAT networking experience, you never know how knowing someone who works in higher education could help you in your future job search! I personally think a job in admissions is one of the best you can get but I may be slightly biased 🙂
8. Make a budget: As you get a little farther into school this will become more applicable but make sure you have an idea of how much you are spending a month and how much money you are bringing in. Starting good habits early will set you up for success later.
9. Know that at Nazareth College you are not just investing in a education but an overall life experience: That is the question on everyone’s mind lately is if I am going to pay this much for an education then what am I going to get out of it? With programs that have 100% job placement rates in the field of study after 6 months, to internships around the globe, study abroad opportunities, and a faculty and staff that challenges students to think outside the box and prepare for life beyond college, there is almost no better investment that you can make!