As you’ll know by now, my journey through college started out in pretty much the same vain as what the typical freshman goes though, particularly with regards to the financial side of your so-called “best years”. Luckily I soon figured things out by way of the need to hone one’s financial management skills as well, even though it was perhaps mostly out of necessity.
How I wish I knew then what I know now. I wish my future self could go back to my freshman self with some advice that stems from the accumulation of my experiences between then and now. If that was at all possible, this is what would be contained in the letter to my freshman self:
Dear College Freshman
Since you’d be very lucky to find the sort of mentor who’d lay the beans bare for you to see unhindered, here are some pointers to try and live by from someone who really cares (your future self), which will act as a set of guidelines for how you should handle your finances.
Honesty is the best policy
Classic cliché, yes, however it’s perhaps the best single piece of advice you’ll get. Be honest about your finances, especially to yourself. If you have a set budget to stick to in order to get through on the limited resources you likely have, stick to it and don’t give in to the trappings of instant gratification. If you can’t afford it, you’ll have to give it a miss.
The honesty should extend beyond your own personal space however because you never know who’s just waiting to help you out, perhaps with a nice job hook-up like earning some cash on the side as a guest-blogger in your field of study, or someone might know someone who has some information about a scholarship which would cover all your fees and help you avoid student debt…
Challenge the status quo
This is extremely important in that your delicate college years are the best years during which to develop a bit of resilience in you, which will help you fend off the advances of the marketing world in general. Ask yourself one one-word question, which is “Why?”
“Why do I need to join the male equivalent of the sorority group, especially if it means I have to pay a membership fee?” “Why should I sign up for this credit card which is so easily approved for students?”
These are the types of questions which will help you get through some of those periods of serious financial pressure, pressure which reveals itself to be really unnecessary as soon as you scrutinize it with the eye of someone who is non-partisan to any social and economic biases.
And finally, make full use of your status as a student
That little card you carry with your picture on it along with your particulars is a ticket to a lot of benefits which are exclusively available to students, which means you can get lots and lots of free stuff.
Your Future Self