Tag Education

Spending money in college

credit card

Enrollment decision made? Check!  

College housing selected? Check!  

Credit card for college – What?!  Should I get a credit card? 

Before you leave for college, you be prepared to budget your money.  This could mean having a credit card – or not.  Here are 6 money management tips for you to consider as you prepare to go off to college in the fall. 

  • Open a bank account and get an ATM card (if you don’t already have one).  You may want to even research the local banking options at the school you will attend.  Many colleges have a bank or credit union on campus.  Make it a joint account (you and a parent) That way you can access your money when away from home (in college). 
  • Learn how to check your bank balance from your phone It is a good practice to check your bank balance before you get gas or stop by Starbucks, to be sure you have money in your account for the purchase. 
  • Learn how to deposit checks.  New technology allows you to deposit checks right from your phone.  Great for those graduation checks you will receive. 
  • Create a budget It is essential to have a spending plan.  Know how much money you will have each month from your financial aid or from parents.  With your parents, create a realistic monthly budget.  Then, your biggest task will be to stick to your budget. 
  • Learn how to schedule & pay bills from your account.  You might have phone bills or other bills you are responsible for.  Learn how to pay on time and keep within a budget. 
  • Decide with your parents and if you choose, open a credit card account BEFORE leaving for college Credit card companies will offer many promotions for new students on campus – free shirts, new tech gear, etc.  Don’t be tempted by free stuff!  Open ONLY oncredit card and use this card as a “backup” (if you don’t have cash) to help establish good credit. 

Start developing good money management skills now, and you will have a great start to your freshman year in the fall. 

Take Action 

Use the Cost of Attendance in GuidedPath to calculate your college budget.  Here you can find the amount listed as “Personal Expenses”.  Use this to calculate your college budget.  Divide the number by 9 months to determine your monthly budget. 

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Defining Financial Aid Terms

By now you’ve received financial aid awards from the schools that have offered you admission.  But interpreting those awards might seem a bit like reading a foreign language.  Here are six common terms that you will see on a financial aid award. 

  1. Cost of Attendance – The Cost of Attendance is more than just tuition, it is an estimate of the total expense for one year of attendance.  It should include – 1) Tuition & Fees; 2) Room & Board; 3) Books & Supplies; 4) Personal Expenses, 5) Transportation (getting to and from the campus).  If the financial aid award does not include these items, search the website for the information or call the college.
  2. Expected Family Contribution (EFC) – The amount your family is expected to pay toward college (your EFC) is calculated by the FAFSA (Free Application for Student Aid).  You can find your EFC on the confirmation page you received when you submitted your FAFSA form.  This number should be listed on all your awards.  If it’s not there, ask the college why.

    Cost of Attendance – Expected Family Contribution = Need 

  3. Student Financial Need – Use the financial aid equation above to determine your “financial need” for each school.  Then check the college’s award letter.  If the school’s total financial aid award is less than your financial need, you have a “financial aid gap.”  You must pay this gap (in addition to paying your EFC amount) with other sources of funding not provided by the school.  Scholarships from community groups or other sources, personal savings, or private loans are examples of how students pay their EFC plus any financial gap.
  4. Grants and Scholarships – Grants and scholarships are awards that do not need to be repaid.  Are these grants or scholarships renewable (will you received them for just freshman year or every year)?  What are the eligibility requirements that you must meet to receive the scholarship for additional years (a minimum GPA, a certain number of course credits, etc.)? 
  5. Loans – Has the college included student or parent loans in your award?  This money must be repaid by you or your parents.  An offer of $20,000 parent loan alone is not a good offer.  
  6. Work-study – A work-study award is potential income that you may earn by working part-time in a work-study position.  Most work-study jobs are on-campus which can make them convenient, but a work-study award does not guarantee you a work-study job.  You must apply for work-study positions like any other part-time job.  And just like other part-time jobs, you will receive a paycheck for your work-study earnings.  It is not automatically applied toward your cost of attendance.  Contact the university financial aid office to learn about the availability and application process for work-study positions.     

Are you being offered a mix of grants, scholarships, loans and work-study?  The more money you don’t have to pay back, or earn by working, (ideally – more scholarships and grants, less loans and work-study) the better.     

Take Action 

Enter all your admission decisions and financial aid awards into GuidedPath.  This gives you a list of all the awards colleges are offering you. 

To enter college awards: 

  1. Log into your GuidedPath account. 
  2. From your dashboard, click on the blue Decisions box. 
  3. Click on each college Decision Details. 
  4. Click on Responses: Admitted? Waitlisted? Not Admitted? 
  5. Click on Awards. Add each award from your award letters in this section. 

Enter Award type | Name of the award | Annual Amount | Total Amount (4 year amount) | Additional Information (if any) 

Repeat this process for EVERY college. Get all your numbers entered to prepare for the next step: Comparing Financial Aid Awards 

Next week: How to determine the best financial aid award.  

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Study Apps Students Must Have


Do you dream of spending less time studying and still getting great grades?Turn your phone or device into a study machine!  There are great resources available to turn all that time you spend on your phone into something productive.  You may find a favorite that you’ll continue to use in college!

Here are 10 apps you can use to be a better student! 

  1. Evernote: place to keep and record notes (desktop, online and mobile app) 
  2. ScannerPro: an add-on to Evernote, this allows you to “scan” documents with your phone and upload them to Evernote or the cloud  (mobile app) 
  3. Trello: create and track projects (online and mobile app) 
  4. Khan Academylots of subjects covered in a way you can relate to (online) 
  5. GoConqr: create mind maps for projects, make flash cards, create your own quizzes (online and mobile app) 
  6. Wunderlistorganize and share your to-do, work, grocery, movies and household lists (online and mobile app) 
  7. Quizlet: learning tools and flash cards for the 21st century (online and mobile app) 
  8. My Study Life:  an online planner and organizer, never forget a deadline again (online and mobile app) 
  9. XMind: a mind-mapping and brainstorming tool (online and mobile app) 
  10. iStudiez: a student/assignment organizer with multiple features.  You can even enter your grades and calculate your class average or overall GPA (mobile app) 

Many of these resources are free or offer a free basic version you can try out!

Take Action
Use GuidedPath to manage your college related tasks.  Add an assignment for things like essay deadlines, standardized test dates, college visits or anything related to your college or career preparation.  You’ll see these on your calendar and get reminders as deadlines approach.  Add college related documents to Dropbox or Google Drive in a folder that you can share with your counselor on GuidedPath.

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How to Become a College Athlete


Do you have what it takes to play sports in college?  Many students do – either at the varsity level, or in clubs and intramural sports.  Each athletic division has their own athletic and academic eligibility requirements. More competitive divisions may want to see videos of your events.  It’s a good idea to keep a record of all your stats, awards and accomplishments.  Fill out the athletic questionnaire on each college website and call or email the athletic director/coach.  Game on!

Varsity Sports 

NCAA – National Collegiate Athletic Association 

The NCAA includes schools in Div I, Div II, and Div III.  They follow academic eligibility and recruiting rules.  Div I and Div II schools can provide athletic scholarships, but full ride scholarships are rare.  Div III schools do not provide any athletic scholarships.  But don’t rule them out.  These colleges may offer merit scholarships to make up for the lack of athletic scholarship money. 

Register with the NCAA Eligibility Center, if you are interested in a Div I or Div II school 

NAIA – National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics 

Made up of smaller 4year colleges across the US and Canada.  The competitive level is described as being equivalent to the NCAA Div II.  The NAIA offers athletic scholarships. 

Register with the NAIA Eligibility Center 

NJCAA – National Junior College Athletic Association 

The NJCAA’s mission is to promote and foster two-year college athletics in an affordable and competitive environment.  Many scholarship opportunities are available. 

Club and Intramural Sports 

Colleges also offer club and intramural sport leagues.  These are typically less competitive than varsity sports.  Club teams usually play against other colleges while intramural teams play other teams within the college (“intra” meaning within, “mural” (or muralis) meaning the walls).  Students take part in these teams to compete, have fun, and stay fit.  

Take Action
GuidedPath includes information in college profiles about sports offered at the varsity, collegiate club, and intramural level.  Evaluate the difference between the different athletic divisions.    

  1. Take the “Athletic Worksheet” survey in GuidedPath.   
  2. Use GuidedPath to determine if a college you like offers your potential sport.   

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Reject the Rejection Letter

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Getting a rejection letter from a college can be a difficult blow.  Especially this year with a college admissions scandal in every major newspaper, it may seem that the process is rigged or unfair to the core.  You may wonder, “Why was I not accepted? What else could I have done?”  

The answer – nothing.  College admission is competitive and some rejections are part of the process.  Although the recent exposure of an admissions scandal has shocked the country, at its heart the college admissions process is made up of individuals who care deeply about students and the universities they represent.  You put your best foot forward with your application, and admission officers have done their best job to choose a class that fills the needs of the college.  Unfortunately, not everyone who applies will be accepted but that doesn’t mean that your application wasn’t given a thorough review.   

You can call the college to ask for more information.  They may be able to shed some light on your decision – how many applications did they receive, how many were accepted, what was the profile of the students who were admitted, etc.  Although it’s not likely to change your decision, sometimes understanding the facts can help soften the blow.     

Additionally, writing a “Reject the Rejection” note for yourself can be a good way to tame your inner thoughts.  This is for your eyes only – do not send this letter anywhere.  Refer back to it as needed for your own self esteem boost.  Here’s a sample to get you started:  

I was shocked when I received the rejection letter from [xxxx college].  Then I realized I’ll be happier attending [yyyy – college you plan to attend].  

I know [xxxx college] receives more applications from qualified students than they can admit.  Unfortunately for you, you did not recognize the reasons I will be successful freshman like…  

It’s too bad for [xxxx colllege] that you won’t have me as a student.  But I’m happy I’ve been admitted to [yyyy] because…   

can’t wait to get started there.  

Take Action
Enter all your admissions decisions, along with financial aid awards, into the Decisions section so that you can compare your offers.   

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Where will I be living next year?


One of the big questions you have as a student (and your parents too) is ‘Where will I be living next year?”  Be sure to explore the housing choices on campus and learn which choices are available to you. 

Housing Styles 

  • Traditional residence halls typically have double occupancy rooms off of a hallway, with shared bathrooms for several rooms.  This is usually the most common option for incoming freshman. 
  • Suite-style residence halls have more of an apartment feel.  Several students share a common living and kitchen area, with bedrooms sharing bathrooms.  Although often available to upperclassmen, some colleges offer these for freshmen. 
  • Apartment-style residence halls are as they say – student apartments.  These are most often for upperclassmen, graduate students, or married/family housing. 

Themed Communities 

  • Living/learning communities – Many colleges offer themed living communities.  Those themes may be honors, specific academic programs, language or culture based, or communities based on lifestyle commitments like green living or substance free. 
  • First Year Experience – Often in addition to housing together, classes are offered for first year students to take together.  Living in first year experience housing gives students opportunity to learn and grow together.

Other considerations 

  1. Meal Plans: How is the meal plan handled – all you can eat meals, or a la carte?  Are there options for extra dollars to use in the coffeeshop or student market?  What happens on the weekend for meals?  Think about your lifestyle (do you eat on the run or sit down for each meal) and choose a meal plan that fits.     
  2. Gender housing: Are there single sex dorms?  Single sex floors?  Transgender friendly housing?  Single sex rooms (with both genders in rooms next to each other?)  How are the bathrooms set up?  What will make you comfortable?  
  3. Alcohol and Drug policies: Be sure to ask about party rules, for you and guests.  Is it a dry campus?  Are some dorms designated drug and alcohol free?  Obviously, all campuses follow the law when it comes to drinking and drug use, however some schools may have more strict policies for the campus or for certain residence halls. 
  4. Security: How secure is the housing?  Do you have to have ID to get inside the building?  What other security measure are in place?  Can you have guests?  What are the restrictions for guests? 


Take Action
Check online for each college’s housing options.  Make a list of criteria that are most important to you and ask about housing during your admitted student visits.  Make a choice and mark your choice in your discussion notes in GuidedPath. 

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