Heading off to college can
be a big change. For a lot of people, it's the closest they've ever been to
living on their own and having to be self-sufficient. One of the things required
to be self-sufficient in this world is, of course, money. Before you get to
school, there are a few things you are going to want to get straightened out so
that you don't find yourself without the necessary funds in case of an emergency
(or late-night pizza run).
It may seem obvious, but anyone going away to school
should have a bank account that he or she can have easy access to. Look for the
following things when choosing a bank for school.
- Many banks have student checking accounts available that have features like
no minimum balance and free checks.
- Make sure to pick a bank that has a branch near your school. If you are
going to another state for school, keep in mind that certain banks are specific
to their region. You may want or need to switch to a bank that services the
location of your school.
- ATM/debit cards are incredibly useful, and most campuses will have a few
machines around. This is safer than carrying cash on you all the time.
Many people approach credit cards with a certain
wariness, and with good reason. It is easy to abuse the ability to charge
something you want but don't really need, especially when you are only
responsible for yourself. On the other hand, having a credit card in case of an
emergency can be extremely helpful and comforting to you and your parents or
If you feel you can demonstrate the self-control necessary,
opt for a card with a small line of credit and a low interest rate. Many banks
offer credit cards to their members, so you can inquire about one at whichever
bank you use. This can make bill paying a lot simpler, as it is simply an
account transfer. A lot of stores also offer cards to their shoppers, which can
be beneficial if you tend to make a lot of purchases there. Do your research to
see which will be the most headache-free option.
Having your own source of
income is a definite must for anyone living on his or her own. Working while
going to school can be tough and time-consuming, but there are a huge number of
jobs out there that work with a college student's non-traditional schedule. Here
are a few ideas:
- Restaurant work pays pretty well and can be scheduled flexibly. You
can work on the weekends and nights when you don't have class, or pick up a few
lunch shifts. If you are a server or a bartender, most of your pay will be
immediate and in cash, which is extremely advantageous.
- Your school probably has a wealth of jobs available to students. Some
of them are needs-based and can be obtained through your financial aid
department, while others can play to your particular academic strengths (such as
tutoring a certain subject). And, of course, your university will understand
that you need to schedule work around your classes.
- Internships can give you valuable experience. Some of these are for
college credit only, but others will pay you for your work. If you find one in
your chosen field, it will add a lot to your college experience as well.
Just walking around your town and seeing who is close by and hiring is
always an option, as well. Many of the local businesses are probably used to
having student employees, and may be more open to being flexible with
Having a job, your own money, and your own place to live is
liberating and rewarding. It's unlikely you'll ever have this much freedom or
disposable income again, so squeeze every last drop you can out of your college
days. They're over sooner than you think!