1. Make sure your school has your financial aid ready for you
By now, you should’ve already applied for financial aid. If not, you need to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) ASAP.
Spring is a great time to check with the financial aid office at the school you plan to attend to make sure your financial aid for the following school year is set up and all the paperwork is complete. This will help you avoid any unnecessary surprises or financial aid delays when you arrive on campus.
You’ll also want to make sure you have enough money to cover any gaps between the cost of your school and the financial aid you’ve been offered. Here are 7 Options to Consider if You Didn’t Receive Enough Financial Aid.
If you’re using student loans to help you pay for college, make sure you’re borrowing only what you need and keeping track of what you’re borrowing.
2. Find a part-time job
If you’re interested in working part-time while in school, it’s best to start checking out those opportunities early, even before you get to campus or start classes. Working during school can teach you great money management skills and also help limit borrowing if you’re able to put that money toward your tuition.
If you were awarded federal work study, here are eight things you need to know. For starters, being awarded work-study does not guarantee you a job. Some schools match students to jobs, but most schools require students to find, apply and interview for positions on their own, just like any other job. Contact your school’s financial aid office to find out what positions are available and how to apply. The most sought after work-study jobs are often filled quickly, so get started now!
3. Craft a good resume and learn how to network
Work experience can be just as important as good grades when looking for jobs after college graduation. Don’t wait until you’re approaching college graduation to write a cover letter and resume, you need one now. Having a compelling and professional resume and cover letter is vital to applying for part-time jobs, internships. Internships not only provide you with knowledgeable experiences in your field, but they also provide great networking opportunities. Don’t settle in and nest; put yourself out there and go to as many networking events as possible.
TIP: Make sure you have an appropriate email address. Employers probably won’t be impressed with an email address such as “firstname.lastname@example.org”.
4. Create a budget and learn how to manage your money
Now that you’re heading off to college, you’ll need to learn how to manage your money. Will you get a financial aid refund? How much can you expect to make weekly at your part-time job? What expenses are already covered (i.e. meal plan)? What do you still need to pay for (i.e. books)?
It’s important to know how much you have coming in and what you can afford to spend. Sit down and make a budget for the semester or year. It will help you avoid unnecessary splurges. Here are some tips.
5. Register for classes and prepare for a whole new world of time management
Make sure you are registered for classes and understand your class schedule. One of the biggest challenges for a lot of you will be time management. When you head off to college, you won’t have somebody there to wake you up, make you breakfast and send you out the door in clean clothes with completed homework in hand. Set yourself up early with a class schedule (make a course syllabus your new best friend) and a system that works for you. You need to know deadlines for registration, papers, financial aid, coursework and everything in between. Your chance of succeeding academically will rapidly evaporate if you don’t manage your time well. You’re worth the investment–manage it well.
6. Get extra help/IEPs
Did you have an IEP in high school? If so and you feel that it would be helpful to have more help in college, then YOU need to ask. No one will be coming to you suggesting that you could use the help. Find the correct office at your school (maybe the office for students with disabilities – or something like that?) and confirm the process. A good article on the topic can be found here – it’s written for parents but students can certainly learn the basics as well.
If you just need help with general studies on an on/off basis (not an IEP situation) – almost all colleges offer free tutoring – but again YOU need to ask! Don’t wait until the last minute or the tutoring opportunities may be full. AND your professors all have office hours specifically to offer extra help to students. Take advantage of these as well!
7. Think about how to get your textbooks
Textbooks are a MAJOR expense! One way to save money is by buying used textbooks or renting them. Search sites such as the ones on our list. If you sell textbooks back to the college bookstore at the end of the semester, check online sites first for what they’re worth. College bookstore buy back rates are sometimes as low as 10% of what you paid for it new, so you may be better off selling them online.
8. Learn how to keep you and your things safe
Yes, you need to remember to lock your dorm room and place that lock on your laptop. Losing your laptop can wreak havoc on your studies and a theft due to an unlocked door can also ruin your relationship with your roommate. Start practicing being more aware of your surroundings and keeping yourself safe.
Program your school’s campus security number into your phone. You never know when you might need it.
Safety also applies to protecting your Social Security number, usernames and passwords. Your Social Security number is one of the main identifiers when checking on things like financial aid, grades, and registering for classes. Make sure all your passwords and important numbers are not on a post-it-note on your desk. Store them in a secure place. Not protecting your identity and important information can have lasting long-term effects on your ability to get a job and apply for credit.
9. Get ready to fill out the FAFSA again in October
Yes, you heard that right. The FAFSA will be available starting on October 1. If you want to maximize the amount of financial aid you receive next year, you’ll want to fill out the FAFSA as soon as possible after October 1.
Congratulations on a job well done and making the decision to advance your education.
Helpful Information from CHS Graduates and Volunteers
- Shopping list for college: Here is a suggestion College Supply List created by CHS graduates.
- College tips booklet: Do you want a big or small school? Do you want a city or country school? Do you want to go north (brrrr) or south (hot!)? Can you only afford a state school? Lots of things to think about. Here is the Tips Book 2010 with tons of information that was put together by Conestoga parents and college students in 2000, and updated again in 2010. While some information may now be outdated (i.e.it might reference taking a VHS player to school), but it still is a great resource.
The mission of T&E Care is to maintain a network of people providing financial and other material assistance to persons in need in and around the Tredyffrin and Easttown township areas.
T&E Care is an IRS recognized non-profit organization under section 501(c)(3) of the tax code. The official registration and financial information of Tredyffrin & Easttown Care may be obtained from the Pennsylvania Department of State by calling toll free, within Pennsylvania, 1 (800) 732-0999. Registration does not imply endorsement.