1. Just sit down and file your FAFSA (hopefully BEFORE December 1st if you want to get some institutional aid). Some of you probably think, “Why? I won’t qualify for anything?” Well, let me tell you something; at the absolute bare minimum, you will qualify for federal loans that have a lower interest rate compared to most private loan options.
2. Meet with your academic advisor early and often. Set up your four year plan and stick to it. Iowa State’s tuition for full-time students will stay the same after you hit that 12 credit mark. If you don't plan properly, you may be stuck taking an extra semester, which only means you'll be taking on more debt. Graduating within 4 years is the way to go!
3. If you’re a full-time student, remind yourself to make school your top priority. By all means, please enjoy your life still. But don’t skip studying for a test to go out with your pals (for the third night in a row). It’s OK to say “No, I need to study!”
4. If you’re overspending and quickly running out of money, change one of two things. Stop spending so much or have more money. Some people do well with budgets, buuutttt the rest of us just can’t let go of our habits. Get a job or pick up more hours! Have you heard how much the dining centers are paying??
5. Follow the wise words of Lil Dicky and “Save Dat Money”! Get in the habit of putting a portion of your paycheck into savings. This will help build a safety cushion for now and will become second nature when you get a full time job.
6. Remember you are in college and it’s OK to act like it. Take the bus, shop second hand, and take advantage of freebies (this includes food and activities)! Practice conscious spending and learn to live below your means. In the beginning, it will be difficult because when you’re in college your means are about as meager as they come. Instead, focus on how you can get the greatest value for every dollar you spend.
7. Think about the long-term value instead of short-term pleasure when making decisions. Yeah, it’s pretty easy to walk into a restaurant and get a job. But if you work towards something like an internship in your chosen field, it could lead a full-time position after graduation.
8. Take 5 minutes and apply for scholarships through the financial aid office and your college. Most programs now use a single application that qualifies you for a tons of scholarships. When writing essays, be sure to share your story in detail and try to answer the questions in a memorable way. Don't forget to have a friend proof read for you. Yay for free money and reducing your loan debt!
Written by Ericka Kadner, Student Loan Education Office Peer Mentor