Are you heading off to college? Congratulations, you’re about to embark on one of the most exciting periods of your life. Yes, it can be a little daunting, especially if it’s your first time living away from home, potentially living in a different city, state or even country. College is very different to High School, but for the most part is one of the most fun periods of your life. You’ll get to take specific papers related to your interests and potential career, you’ll meet new people and you’ll find yourself breaking out into the world as your own person.

If you’ve lived at home up until this point, you may be feeling completely overwhelmed. Not only do you have to learn a new school system, figure your way out around the giant campus, meet friends, sort out your living situation, but on top of all of that you have to worry about finances too. Most of the time a college education is expensive and one of your life’s biggest expenses aside from a home down the line. When I headed to college the most money I had ever spent was a few hundred dollars on a pair of skis, so I had no concept of what my college education would really cost me nor how long it would take to pay it back. I wish I had researched a little more and learned some tips and tricks about finances before I moved out of home. Here are 4 Financial Tips Before You Go Off to College I wish someone had told me:

1. Your Salary Out of College May Not Be What You Expect
This sounds awfully depressing, but it’s not meant to be. For some reason I thought after graduating with a sciences degree I would be able to walk into the corporate world, land a size figure job and have my student debt cleared within a year. Well, unfortunately for me, neither of those two things happened. Now degrees are a dime a dozen, with many companies looking to more educated people, with masters or even PHDs. This is something to keep in mind, depending on your field. Because so many people are going to university, the market place is a lot more saturated and there’s more competition. Do some research as to what would be a realistic salary in your field with your planned degree. I wish I had known what was in store for me once I graduated!

2. Spend Your Money Wisely
It can be tempting to fritter it away on parties, eating out a lot and just being careless with money. When you’re borrowing money to pay for your college fees, you’re essentially in debt from the first day you start. Any savings you can make from the beginning will help you pay off your loans more quickly. If you need new clothes, invest in quality because I’ve found in the end cheap clothes tend to cost more because you have to replace them. While you’re at it, don’t forget to buy some special college clothes – not only will they be fun to wear around campus, they’ll turn into precious keepsakesĀ of some of your best years. Sorority shirts are an inexpensive and fun way to treasure your college days, so make sure you get some while you’re in college because they’ll have more meaning that way.

3. Make a Budget
If you have housing costs, electricity bills, gas bills, food bills and all the other bills you suddenly find exist after moving out of home and you don’t keep track of where your money is going, it’s likely you’ll overspend on your credit card or wind up with no money left towards the end of the month. Sitting down and making a realistic budget can be a great way to minimise stress, so you can make sure everything’s covered and you can focus on getting the grades you want for the career you’re chasing. Don’t underestimate how much impact poor financial choices can have on the rest of your life, your mood, your concentration levels and how you ultimately perform during your studies. College is expensive, so minimise the stress and set yourself up for success.

4. Don’t Leave Paying Your Loans Until You Finish
Many college students, myself included, have a “I’ll deal with it later, when I’m earning more money” mentality when it comes to their student debt. If your parents have covered your college fees, you’re lucky but also in the minority. I completely ignored my debt until I finished college, because I was mistakenly under the impression I’d leave college and be filthy rich. Sadly that didn’t happen and it took me a very long time to finally get my student debt under control. Making small weekly or monthly repayments while you’re studying is an excellent way to get rid of your debts while you study and you’ll be so glad you did. No one ever says “Wow, I wish I hadn’t aggressively paid off my debt”.
These four simple money mindset changes can help your college days be more successful, memorable and stress-free!