College is when many young people first get a taste of independence. Unfortunately, this newfound freedom can lead to decisions that may impact life well beyond graduation.
How can you avoid the pitfalls plaguing fellow scholars? Here are strategies for dodging common mistakes made by college students:
Hurting Your Credit
You may be presented with credit card offers for the first time; and building good credit can help lay the groundwork for future financial options — but proceed wisely. College seniors owed $4,100 in credit card debt by graduation, according to recent research from Debt.org.
Don’t let credit cards be an excuse to spend beyond your means. Start with a line of credit you can handle. If you manage that well, later on you’ll be able to borrow more.
To maintain good credit, pay your statement on time and more than the minimum due each month, keep balances low, keep long-standing accounts open, and avoid applying for too many credit cards. Remember to check credit history often. Look for a credit card that offers perks like cash back rewards and a low APR.
College is about earning a degree. However, it’s also about making lifelong friends and exploring interests. Keep this in mind when choosing courses for the semester.
For example, it may not be the best idea to stack five of the most challenging courses offered by the school into one semester. Not only will it be hard to devote the attention needed for each class, you may leave yourself little time to take on other projects and internships that could also benefit your future.
Bad Money Management
College is expensive, and beyond the expenses you already know about — tuition, books, and housing — you will incur many other expenses along the way, from lab fees to gas to cell phone bills.
“Setting up a budget is crucial, particularly if your spending money is drawn from a loan or grant,” says John Rasmussen, head of Education Financial Services at Wells Fargo. “You’ll need that money to last if you don’t have another stream of revenue.”
Don’t form bad financial habits now, as do so many college students. Take advantage of free resources, such as Wells Fargo’s Get College Ready site, to learn more about banking, building good credit and paying for college. The site features tips, and tools such as My Money Map, which offers a way to track spending, set budgeting goals and monitor savings. It also offers advice on topics like renters insurance and student loans. Visit mrm.wellsfargobank.com/getcollegeready/ to learn more.
Between cramming and socializing, shuteye may be in short supply. However, quality sleep is fundamental to quality learning. If you’re a night owl, avoid early morning classes. Also, avoid procrastination, which can lead to all-nighters.
College lasts just a few years but what you do there can affect your life for years to come. Use your independence to make smart decisions that are good for your future.